Nearly half of newborns "euthanised by doctors"
11 April 2005
A study published in the Lancet claims that nearly half of all newborn babies who died in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium over a period of one year had their deaths hastened by their doctors.
Paediatricians either stopped treating the babies or killed them by lethal injection. Dr Gunnar Naulaers of the Catholic University Hospital in Leuven argued that his colleagues hastened deaths only as a side effect of easing pain and said that such decisions to withhold or withdraw treatment occurred all over the world in cases where the prognosis was 'hopeless'.
Euthanasia is legal in Belgium for adults but it remains illegal deliberately to end the life of a child. [Telegraph, 9 April]
Scottish hospitals perform abortions as late as 34 weeks, Scotland on Sunday reports. Abortion is permitted up to birth in Britain in case of suspected disability and for other reasons. Ian Murray of SPUC Scotland said: "We are hearing more and more stories of babies surviving at 24 weeks. To think that abortions are being carried out up to six weeks before birth will surprise and horrify people, no matter the disability." [Scotland on Sunday, 10 April]
The Independent newspaper features a sympathetic interview with a doctor who was convicted for the attempted murder of an elderly patient. Lillian Boyes was not terminally ill but suffered from rheumatoid arthritis that caused her severe pain. Dr Nigel Cox gave her an injection of potassium chloride after she asked him to end her life and was given a 12-month suspended sentence. He supports voluntary euthanasia and said: "Most doctors will deny it if you ask them 'Have you ever done it?' But most doctors, among themselves, will admit that they have bumped off two or three patients at their request. And, certainly, where I have seen this happening, I've never had any doubt that it was the correct thing to do." [Independent, 11 April]
At the 38th Session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) the US has asked that the Cairo document on population and development only be reaffirmed "with the understanding that nothing therein creates an international right to abortion." Nicaragua expressed reservations about ambiguous wording such as "reproductive health" and "sexual and reproductive health services" which can include abortion on demand. [C-FAM, 8 April]
Glasgow may house Scotland's proposed umbilical cord blood bank, the Scottish Herald reports. New mothers will be able to deposit cord blood at the bank with the aim of providing an ethical source of stem cells to treat serious conditions such as leukaemia. Cord blood cells are also thought to be more useful than bone marrow as they do not require a perfect tissue match. [Scottish Herald, 11 April]
The Terri Schiavo case has provoked discussion about euthanasia in European countries such as Austria and Germany, The Guardian reports. Neither Austria nor Germany are considering legalising euthanasia but are exploring the introduction of living wills. The euthanasia programmes of the Second World War have had a profound effect on public attitudes to euthanasia with one survivor of the Nazi medical experiments expressing horror at the killing of Terri Schiavo. Johann Gross, who was a victim of experimentation at a Vienna psychiatric hospital, said: "No people in the world have the right to kill another, it's murder. It's the same as the Nazis did." [Guardian, 11 April]
Women who have had late-term abortions in Kansas are resisting attempts by the state's Attorney General to obtain their medical records. Phil Kline issued a subpoena last year ordering the release of the records as part of an investigation into possible violations of the law including child sexual abuse. [Medical News Today, 11 April]
The trial in Portugal of three women accused of procuring and providing abortions has been suspended again after a defence lawyer claimed that the judge was biased. According to Pedro Delille, the lawyer representing the nurse who has been charged, the judge made a biased statement when she said that people who "devote themselves to such crimes are generally seeking financial gain." A referendum in 1998 rejected moves to allow abortion on demand up to 10 weeks gestation. [China Daily, 9 April]
In a homily preached at a Requiem Mass for the Pope at St Andrew's Cathedral, Dundee, the Bishop of Dunkeld praised John Paul II's 'moral courage' and his witness to life during his last illness. Bishop Vincent Logan said: "He put great emphasis on human rights, and especially the most fundamental right of all - the right to life... Pope John Paul II preached such values and he lived them to the very end." [Scottish Catholic Media Office, 8 April]
Pro-life pharmacists in Illinois may be forced to defy an order by the state governor requiring them to dispense the morning after pill. Karen Brauer, President of Pharmacists for Life, argued that Governor Rod Blagojevich's order violates state law that allows health care providers to exercise conscientious objection. She told a local newspaper: "The problem is the governor can't read. And he is going to get sued over this. And he is going to be embarrassed - all because he can't read." [LifeNews, 7 April]