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Defending life
from conception to natural death


11 January 2005

11 January 2005

11 January 2005 The House of Lords has allowed the UK government's Mental Capacity Bill to proceed to its next stage.

Peers took part in the second reading debate yesterday. In her first-ever speech to the house, Baroness Chapman of Leeds said: "If the Bill had been passed 43 years ago, I would not be here. My parents were told that I would be blind, deaf, unable to communicate and have no noticeable mental function. Doctors and practitioners do get it wrong. We need to ensure that people have the opportunity to prove the medics wrong. Although protected from the Bill as a child, there would have been two or three occasions after childhood where, from a purely medical perspective, treatment could have been withdrawn from me. The Bill ignores the fact that people have a basic right to life; that issue cannot and must not be ignored."

[Official report, House of Lords, 10 January ] Lord Goodhart, QC, claimed that critics of the Bill regarded withdrawal of treatment leading to death as euthanasia, regardless of the circumstances or reasons for withdrawing it. Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's political secretary who attended the debate, said: "SPUC contends that withdrawal of treatment is not always wrong. On the contrary, where there is no intention to kill the patient, it is often the right and proper course of action. But deliberately to kill a patient by withholding life sustaining treatment, is wrong and must be excluded from the Bill if it is to protect the vulnerable."

The House of Lords will start to consider the bill in committee in two weeks' time (the 25th of this month).

[SPUC, 10 January ] The Pope has reiterated the church's opposition to abortion, reproductive technology and human embryo research in an address to diplomats representing some 175 countries. His remarks were in the context of concerns about laws which threatened the family based on marriage.

[Breaking News, 10 January ] The British prime minister has expressed shock at how a young woman killed herself after finding information about suicide on the internet. Mr Tony Blair was responding to a campaign against such material by a newspaper in north-west England which reported on the death of Miss Sarah Cherry, 19. Miss Cherry visited a chatroom and bought a book on suicide from Amazon UK, who insist that this was legal.

[Preston Today, 10 January ] SPUC's Anthony Ozimic said: "It is illogical, if not hypocritical, of the Prime Minister to support a campaign against suicide, when his government has promoted the suicidally-motivated 'living wills' of the pro-suicide Voluntary Euthanasia Society and has claimed neutrality on Lord Joffe's bill to legalise assisted suicide."

Dr Vincent Cable MP has criticised the lack of national funding for the terminally ill, particularly in his constituency of Richmond and Twickenham, England. Although the vast majority of terminally ill patients would prefer to spend their last days at home or in a hospice, only 33% are able to do so, as the majority of funding is given to hospitals.

Dr Cable said: "It is clear that, whenever possible, people prefer to be at home with loved ones or in specialised hospices. But, in practice, those preferences are not available because the support isn't there and there isn't adequate hospice provision."

[Richmond and Twickenham Times, 7 January ] A motion to adopt a pro-abortion policy has been submitted for consideration by the Canadian Conservative party's national convention in March. Branches in the Toronto area passed the resolution.

The Campaign Life Coalition expressed concern and called on supporters in the party to oppose such policies actively.

[LifeSite, 10 January ] A gynaecologist in Wales has criticised an historical film about an abortionist for its portrayal of the use of soapy water to procure an abortion.

Dr Peter Bowen-Simpkins of Sancta Maria Hospital, Swansea, is worried that women in developing countries might imitate the technique shown in Vera Drake and force fluid or air into their bloodstream, which is very dangerous.

[Sunday Telegraph, 9 January ] When the film won awards last year, SPUC's Anthony Ozimic said: "By positing a false moral dilemma about backstreet abortion, this film is asking yesterday's loaded questions in the abortion debate, when today's questions are focused on the status of the unborn child."

Pharmacists in California would be required to supply abortifacient birth control if a proposal before the state assembly is passed.

Mr Lloyd Levine's proposal contrasts with measures enacted in some 12 other states which give pharmacists the right of conscientious objection.

[CNA on EWTN, 6 January ] As many as 50% of people who have stem cell transplants could experience delirium, according to a study of 90 patients by the University of Washington. The researchers suggest that doctors could routinely miss some of the symptoms of delirium.

The patients were having hematopoietic [to do with the formation of blood] stem cell treatment.

[Medical News Today, 10 January ] It is unclear from our source whether any of the stem cells were from human foetuses. SPUC supports only ethical stem cell treatment, though such treatment must, of course, also be safe for patients.

Health authorities in South Yorkshire, England, have agreed that couples receiving state-funded IVF will be able to have three NHS-funded treatment cycles instead of two.

[Doncaster Today, 10 January ] A Portsmouth, England, company has developed a way of electronically tagging test tubes.

This may help avoid mistakes in fertility treatment where the wrong gametes are used.

[Portsmouth Today, 11 January ] The British government has told crematoria to cut their emissions of mercury, which they say can harm the unborn.

[Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 10 January ] Fines for smoking in indoor public places in Italy will be higher if the offender smokes in the presence of a pregnant woman. [Telegraph, 10 January ]

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