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Defending life from the moment of conception

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"That small time we spent with our daughters was so precious - I will always treasure that"

10 April 2006

A couple in England whose premature twin girls died two weeks after birth have spoken of the time they spent with their daughters and of their horror at recent proposals by doctors to let premature babies die. Sally King gave birth to baby girls Samantha and Victoria at 23 weeks eight years ago but, despite the best efforts of doctors at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Victoria died after three days and Samantha after 14 days. Mrs King said, "That small time we spent with our daughters was so precious; I will always treasure that. The thought that some doctor could come along and tell me he wasn't going to help my children because they were premature is beyond belief. It is bad enough to give birth to a premature baby but for a doctor to then tell you they are not worth treating is horrific." [Norwich Evening News, 8 April]

Pro-life campaigners in America are planning to submit a petition to investigate the death of a woman who died after having an abortion at a clinic in Kansas. Christin Gilbert, 19, who had Down's syndrome, underwent an abortion on 11 January 2005 when she was 28 weeks' pregnant. She died two days later of complications caused by the abortion. The petitioners say that she did not have the mental capacity to consent to the abortion and accuse the clinic of mistreatment of a dependent adult and involuntary manslaughter amongst other charges. [Medical News Today, 10 April]

Only 40% of UK health trusts offer free IVF, despite a pledge two years ago by the government that free fertility treatment would be universally available, according to an investigation by the Independent on Sunday. In February 2004, the then Secretary of State for Health, Dr John Reid, promised that women aged between 23 and 39 who had proven fertility problems, would receive one free cycle of IVF treatment. Many hospitals appear to be ignoring this and limiting the number of people for free treatment by imposing restrictions on eligibility. [Independent on Sunday, 9 April]

Members of the Scottish Parliament have criticised a new government-funded programme for Catholic schools as they fear it will not promote contraception. The programme, "Called to Love", will focus on delaying sex until marriage. It is to be piloted in Inverclyde and Edinburgh this summer. Abortion will not be addressed. Patrick Harvie of the Scottish Green Party said the Scottish Executive should focus "on making sure that young people who are going to Catholic schools ... are being given alternative ways of getting the information and services that everybody else in non-denominational schools is getting." Carolyn Leckie, health spokeswoman for the Scottish Socialist Party, said: "They are either going to deliver equal sex education available [sic] to everyone or they're not." The Scottish sex education body, Healthy Respect and the Scottish Catholic Education Service have developed the programme jointly. [Sunday Herald, 9 April] Ian Murray, director of SPUC Scotland, said: "As they are so keen on equality of delivery, rather than attack a programme that promotes abstinence the MSPs should be asking for it to be extended to non-denominational schools since the current Healthy Respect programme has failed to produce any positive effects on our school pupils."

Adult stem cells have been found to improve recovery in animals that suffer brain damage similar to that suffered in humans from strokes or cerebral palsy. Researchers of the American Academy of Neurology injected human adult stem cells into animals that had suffered neurological damage and found that treated animals experienced at least 25% greater improvement than untreated animal. Dr David Hess, a co-author of the study, said, "These are not going to be cures, but this level of recovery is significant." [Wanadoo, 7 April]

Giving birth by caesarean section increases the risk of life threatening problems in future pregnancies, according to a study published in the American journal Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The risk of developing placenta abruption and placenta prævia, which involve the way that the placenta attaches to the womb, is thought to be increased in mothers who have had caesareans. [Medical News Today, 8 April]

Antioxidant therapy could help pregnant women with pre-eclampsia, according to a study by researchers in America. Pre-eclampsia occurs in approximately 5% of pregnancies, and can be fatal. Scientists from the University of Iowa found that the antioxidant tempol prevents the onset of pre-eclampsia in pregnant mice as well as cutting the number of foetal deaths in mice already suffering from the condition. Darren Hoffman, who led the research, said, "The results strongly suggest that antioxidant therapy will be useful for women with pre-eclampsia." [Medical News Today, 7 April]

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