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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Dutch man sentenced for 'breaching euthanasia guidelines' while assisting suicide

24 April 2006

A Dutch man has been given a 15-month gaol sentence for having helped a friend to commit suicide. Ad van Dijck suffered from obsessive compulsive neurosis and had repeatedly expressed a wish to die. A. de G. (the source does not give his full name) procured lethal doses of heroin and methadone for van Dijck, but was not charged with murder because it could not be proven that he had administered the drugs. He was convicted for not having followed Dutch euthanasia guidelines, which require, for example, that it should be carried out by a medical professional. [Expatica, 21 April] In Montreal, Canada, Andre Bergeron has pleaded guilty to aggaravated assault for having attempted to suffocate his disabled wife, Marielle Houle. Bergeron was initially charged with attempted murder, a charge the Crown Prosecution refused to downgrade to attempted murder. The maximum sentence for aggravated assault is 14 years, but the defence intends to request a suspended sentence. [CBC News Montreal, 21 April]

A study by British doctors published in the medical research journal The Cochrane Library suggests that the drug which is used in chemical abortions may be unsafe. In a study on the use, for purposes other than abortion, of Cytotec (a prostaglandin generically known as misoprostol), researchers at the University of Liverpool concluded that its use to induce labour or cause abortion may be dangerous to women. The makers of Cytotec have previously warned that it should not be used for abortion. [, 21 April]

The supermarket chain Tesco has said that it may be forced by NHS trusts to provide the abortifacient morning-after pill to girls under 16. Currently, in-store pharmacies at Tesco will provide the pill only to women and girls over 16 and those with a prescription. However, some primary care trusts are refusing to grant the licence required to operate a pharmacy without an undertaking from the prospective pharmacy that it will provide the morning-after pill to children. [Daily Telegraph, 22 April]

Human rights activist Mao Hengfeng has been abused while held in detention by Chinese authorities. Mao, who was held in detention from 13 February to 29 March reported that guards physically assaulted her repeatedly. Mao Hengfeng's case was specifically mentioned by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture during his inspection of China late last year. [, 31 March] Mao has been targeted by the Chinese regime for her protests against the one-child policy, she herself being subjected to a forced abortion.

Comments on life-related issues by Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini, the retired archbishop of Milan, in an Italian newspaper, have attracted widespread attention in both the Catholic and secular media. [L'espresso, 21 April] Some reports interpret Cardinal Martini's comments as at variance with Catholic teaching on the beginning of human life, abortion and assisted procreation. However, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life is quoted as saying: "The cardinal [Martini] used words that ought to be studied; one should not react impulsively". Alfonso Cardinal Lopez Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, is reported to have said that that he was "surprised" and "perplexed" by Cardinal Martini's comments but wished to read them carefully before responding. [CWNews, 21 April] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, said: "Cardinal Martini's comments, made in a lengthy and substantial dialogue with a bioethicist, have given rise to great concern. They are clearly of importance, and SPUC is studying them carefully."

The Jesuit-run Georgetown University, USA, has agreed to revise its website to exclude links to abortion providers and services which refer for abortion. Todd Olson, the University's vice-president for students affairs, wrote in a letter to Patrick Reilly of the Cardinal Newman Society that the pro-abortion links are being removed following protest and publicity from the CNS. [, 21 April]

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