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'Secret death courts' established by Mental Capacity Act

14 August 2006

Disputes arising from the Mental Capacity Act may be heard behind closed doors, the Daily Mail reports. The Mental Capacity Act establishes a new Court of Protection to judge the validity of 'living wills' and lasting powers of attorney, which can be used to deprive mentally-incapacitated patients of reasonable medical treatment and assisted food and fluids. Referring to the new Court as "the first legal tribunal in Britain to hold life-and-death powers since the abolition of the death penalty for murder in 1965", the newspaper noted that hearings may be heard in camera (in secret) for reasons of confidentiality or the interests of the patient. [Daily Mail, 13 August] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, commented: "The Court of Protection will indeed have life-and-death powers, in addition to the Family Division of the High Court, which has exercised life-and-death judgement in cases of patients with severe brain injury (as well as other cases) for a number of years."

A report published in Reproductive BioMedicine Online suggests that egg donation may harm women's health. Diane Beeson of California State University and Abby Lipmann of McGill University, Montreal, found that drugs used to stimulate ovulation in order to extract eggs for other women's IVF treatment, and latterly also to create embryos for research, may have negative effects on the donors. The report claims that pharmaceutical companies have not been required to submit information on the risks of ovarian induction to the US Food and Drug Administration. [Medical News Today, 14 August]

Belgium is experiencing a shortage of Pentothal, the drug usually used in euthanasia, due to the transfer of the licence between companies. Palliative care professor Wim Distelmans said "We have been without [Pentothal] for weeks now... The intention of euthanasia is to bring the patient into an irreversible coma in an elegant and reliable manner. Pentothal is the only drug which can do this." The administration necessary to resume supply of the drug may be completed in under three months. An average of 30 patients a month are killed under euthanasia laws in Belgium, with other cases possibly going unreported. [LifeSite, 11 August]

A UK hospital is planning to merge its fertility treatment ward with an abortion ward in an attempt to provide a more efficient service. Pro-life groups have warned that putting abortion, IVF and miscarriage patients together might cause distress, while staff have accused the hospital of cost-cutting. The move breaches Royal College Of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidelines, which say that "as far as possible, women admitted for abortion should be cared for separately from other gynaecological patients". [Daily Mail, 12 August]

The Catholic bishop of Rockford, Illinois, has spoken of how American society is 'reaping the whirlwind of abortion'. Writing in the diocesan newspaper, Bishop Doran said "What we have to remember is that violence breeds violence. When we tolerate unjust attacks upon the tiniest innocents among us, we habituate ourselves to violence... How accustomed we have become to the immense loss of life in our wars throughout the world!... The violence of abortion coarsens the lives of all of us". The Bishop called abortion and other attacks on human life and the family the "seeds of destruction of our nation". [The Observer, 10 August]

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