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Defending life
from conception to natural death


31 March 2005

31 March 2005

31 March 2005 SPUC has expressed its sympathies for Terri Schiavo's family following her death this afternoon (31 March).

SPUC also warned that the British Parliament is on the brink of enshrining Schiavo-like killings in statute law if the House of Commons passes the British government's Mental Capacity Bill next week. John Smeaton, SPUC national director, commented: "The heartfelt condolences of the thousands of SPUC's members go out to Mrs Schiavo's family at the sad news of Terri's death. SPUC has continued to fight for patients in the UK like Terri since Tony Bland, a patient in a similar condition, was also killed by judicial fiat in 1993. Not only will the Mental Capacity Bill enshrine the principles of the 1993 Bland judgment in statute law, it will extend them to all mentally-incapacitated patients."

[SPUC, 31 March ]. Bishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney has compared the death of Terri Schiavo by the removal of her feeding tube to active euthanasia.

He pointed out that American cases can influence laws elsewhere and that there is a growing tendency for courts to allow the non-treatment and non-feeding of disabled people whose lives are not valued by society.

"[E]uthanasia-by-starvation now may be a prelude to euthanasia-by-poisoning later" the Bishop said.

[Cath News, 31 March ] The Mirror has said that the Mental Capacity Bill would "relax the law" on euthanasia.

[The Mirror, 31 March ] The Daily Mail has pointed out that when the Bill was considered by the House of Commons last year, the Labour government forced the Bill through using the party whips, even though issues of conscience such as euthanasia are normally left to a free vote [Daily Mail, 26 March ] The First Minister of Scotland has called on all candidates to make their positions on abortion clear.

Jack McConnell appeared to be contradicting Tony Blair's desire to keep abortion out of the election when he said that every voter had a right to know the views of their candidate before voting for them.

Mr McConnell, while emphasising that abortion is not a matter for party politics, maintains that voters have a right to know their candidates' views: "The issue of abortion has always been an issue of a matter of conscience for those in the Houses of Parliament, and therefore it is important that voters know how their prospective Member of Parliament might choose to exercise their conscience."

[The Scotsman, 25 March ] Proposals to allow the creation of hybrid human-animals for medical research were backed by leading scientists yesterday following controversy and disagreement among MPs.

They claimed that the use of such hybrids could provide a solution to the shortage of human eggs for research and had the potential to speed up stem cell research on terminal illnesses like Parkinson's.

Under these proposals, genetic materials from human embryos of up to 14 days would be injected into animal eggs.

Professor Chris Higgins, the director of the Medical Research Council's clinical sciences centre, who is backing the proposals, says that the controversy surrounding the research is "completely out of proportion" and claims that the creation of a hybrid human-animal would "have fewer ethical problems, not more."

However, Dr Calum MacKellar, the director of research of the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, said: "How can anyone consider the creation of animal-human hybrid embryos as being ethical? These kinds of experiments are causing a lot of moral distress to millions in the UK and they should not be allowed."

[The Scotsman, 25 March ] American scientists have discovered that hair follicles are a good source of stem cells.

Dr Yasuyuki Amoh and colleagues from the University of California, San Diego, have shown that hair stem cells could potentially be used to treat neurological conditions. Features of hair follicle cells that make them an attractive source are the fast growth of hair, its continual replenishment and its relative accessibility.

The researchers said: "These results suggests that hair follicle stem cells may provide an accessible source of stem cells for therapeutic application."

[BBC News, 28 March ] The nationwide moratorium on embryonic stem cell research in Australia could be lifted next week, after state governments could not reach an agreement on the extension of the three-year moratorium begun on April 5 2002. Australian Church leaders have expressed dismay and disappointment at the failure to continue the ban.

[Catholic World News, 29 March ] An internet sperm donor company has reportedly found a loophole in the new law on donor anonymity, which states that from April1 all sperm and egg donors will lose their right to remain anonymous.

The website ManNotIncluded has launched a new service allowing women to buy sperm from overseas where anonymity laws are not in place.

When they are imported into the UK they will be in a constantly thawing state and so will not be affected by the new law, which only applies to eggs, and sperm that are frozen.

[The Daily Mail, 29 March ] The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is preparing to get rid of guidelines imposing strict standards for parents of children born by IVF, a cross party coalition of MPs has warned.

The coalition, which is backed by children's campaigners, fears that these changes could put children at risk, as potential parents may no longer be assessed for their suitability. The leader of the campaign, Labour MP Tom Harris said that the changes could open the way for an "IVF free for all".

He said: "IVF clinics and politically correct interests don't think it's right to assess prospective parents, it's not politically correct and not politically liberal. But it's vital for the interest of the child."

[Net Doctor, 29 March ] A lawyer for the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons has warned doctors that it is their duty to disclose all the risks of abortion, including the connection between abortion and breast cancer.

Andrew Schlafy, writing in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, pointed out that two lawsuits have already been successfully prosecuted in the US against doctors failing to disclose that abortion is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer.

[Life Site News, 30 March ] A man from Shropshire has received two life sentences in jail for attacking his pregnant girlfriend and killing her unborn child.

Kissland Dennis was convicted by a jury at Stafford Crown Court of grievous bodily harm against Leanne Buttery and child destruction. [BBC News, 23 March ]

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