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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Obese women 'should not get free IVF treatment'

30 August 2006

Obese women in Britain should not be given IVF treatment on the National Health Service until they lose weight, according to the British Fertility Society (BFS). The BFS has also recommended that lesbian and single women, and couples with children from previous relationships, should be given the same fertility treatment as childless heterosexual couples. The chairman of the BFS, Dr Mark Hamilton, said: "Continued inequality of access to treatment is unacceptable in a state-funded health service and the source of considerable distress to a great number of people with fertility problems." [Ananova, 30 August]

Two British universities are to undertake an embryonic stem cell research programme in an attempt to find a treatment for Parkinson's disease and epilepsy. Stem Cell Sciences (SCS), a research group of Edinburgh University, is one of three firms taking part in an £8.1m EU-funded stem cell research programme run by Sheffield University. Dr Peter Mountford, the chief executive of SCS, said that the programme aims to understand more about the application of stem cells on the central nervous system, which, he claims, could lead to cures for nervous disorders such as Parkinson's disease and epilepsy as well as treatments for damage to the nervous system and spinal cord. [The Herald, 30 August]

Christian doctors in America have criticised the Food and Drug Administration's decision to allow the Plan B birth control drug to be sold without prescription to women over 18. Dr David Stevens, executive director of the Christian Medical Association (CMA), which has 17,000 members, said: "The FDA seems to be making the same mistake with 'Plan B' that it made with RU-486--making a decision influenced by political pressure. Removing this high dose of hormones from a doctor's oversight removes a vital safety protection from women. Like any drug, this drug involves side effects and risks, and its use needs to be carefully considered by a physician in light of an individual's medical history...The drug has not been shown to decrease abortions as claimed." CMA associate executive director Dr Gene Rudd expressed concerns that the drug is labelled in a misleading way, as it is not made clear on the label that the drug can have abortifacient effects. [Medical News Today, 30 August]

The Sunday Independent has claimed that 100,000 women a year in Ireland seek the morning after pill from surgeries and clinics. The figure comes from a study by International Medical Statistics but our source does not indicate who commisioned the survey. [Breaking News, 27 August] In June the Sunday Independent claimed that hospital casualty departments were being clogged by young women requesting the abortion-inducing drug. []

A baby girl has been born in Britain from sperm frozen in the 1980s. Poppy Rose Iyoha was born through IVF at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester. Her father, Emmanuel Iyoha, 43, froze a sample of his sperm before undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer in 1989 and subsequently used it to have a child with his second wife. [The Daily Record, 29 August]

A British girl, Sacha Skinner, aged 5, is to undergo treatment in China using umbilical cord stem cells from several babies. Sacha has Batten's disease, a rare degenerative condition. She is scheduled to have four injections of cells at a clinic in Shenyang in northern China. The treatment is experimental and is not permitted in Britain. The child's mother, Annette Dacosta, said: "Maybe I am offering her up as a guinea pig to be the first child to see what happens with stem cells. If it works, fantastic. If it doesn't work, then my child's had four injections and she's come out of it unscathed." [BBC News, 28 August] An SPUC spokesman said: "It seems M/s Dacosta may have been told that there is no risk with this technique, but that has not been established. Umbilical cord stem cell treatments avoid the unethical use of embryonic stem cells and offer great promise. However, they need to be carefully researched to ensure their efficacy and safety."

Promoters of embryonic stem-cell research in the UK have issued a warning against stem cell therapies being offered abroad which have not been proven scientifically. Among those putting their name to the warning are Professor Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research Council, Lord Patel of the UK Stem Cell Bank, and the heads of medical charities including the MS Society, the Parkinson's Disease Society, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Alzheimer's Society. [Times, 29 August]

A drug that aims to prevent premature births by helping women to carry their babies to term is awaiting approval by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Results of recent research show that Gestiva does not appear to reduce births before either 32 or 35 weeks of gestation but does seem to reduce births before the 37th week. The FDA said that weekly injections of the drug could lead to a "substantial reduction" of premature births among women most at risk. Some have expressed concerns that the drug could increase the rate of miscarriages and stillborns. [Sign On San Diego, 28 August]

It is to be made illegal for internet sperm companies to deliver fresh sperm supplies to private homes, the Mirror reports. The rule is prompted by fears that women may be at risk of disease. As from April, firms will have to store sperm for up to six months to ensure it is virus free. Allan Pacey of the British Fertility Society said: "It's a good idea because there are real safety issues." [Mirror, 28 August]

English soccer players are storing stem cells from their children's umbilical cords to use as a possible future cure for cartilage and ligament problems. One unnamed Premier League player from a north-west club is one of five who have frozen their children's stem cells with a commercial stem cell bank based in Liverpool. [Reuters, 27 August]

A British doctor has said that he supports the legalisation of assisted suicide. Dr Colin Lennon, a general practitioner in Wiltshire, wrote in the Western Mail newspaper in support of Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, which was blocked in the House of Lords in May. He claimed that palliative care was not the answer to the suffering of the terminally ill and said that there was "clear evidence that assisted dying legislation can work safely". [Western Mail, 28 August]

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