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Defending life
from conception to natural death


weekly update, 10 to 15 August

15 August 2006

Weekly Update, 10 to 15 August 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."

Jiang Zuojun, vice health minister of China, has denied allegations that late-term abortions are common, or that the Chinese state sanctions forced abortions.

He did not comment on the ongoing case of Chen Guangcheng, arrested after he attempted to bring a lawsuit against the government over forced abortions and sterilisations carried out in connection with the country's one-child policy.

Jiang said "We need to continue to pursue the national family planning policy", which he estimates has prevented 300 million births. Meanwhile Chinese newspaper Xinhua published a report on an official programme, known as 'Care for Girls', which seeks to correct the heavy gender imbalance in China by providing financial incentives for families with only girls and prosecuting cases of sex-selective abortion.

[Medical News Today, 14 August ] A report 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 ] Research at Kyoto University in Japan has found that the introduction of four defined genetic factors can induce differentiated cells to take on the characteristics of embryonic stem cells.

The research has been done using mouse cells by Kazutozhi Takahashi, Shinya Yamanaka and others.

Known as iPS, induced pluripotent stem cells, it is hoped that these adult-derived stem cells, may provide an alternative to the use of embryonic stem cells in therapy.

However, the researchers have yet to establish whether the technique can be applied successfully and safely to human cells.

[Medical News Today, 14 August ] A Florida woman gave birth in her car after she crashed it while driving herself to a hospital.

Kenyetta Biggs, 21, and her baby were rescued when the local deputy sheriff, Stephen Maxwell, came across the partially-submerged vehicle and found Biggs attempting to get out.

"As I looked around her I saw the newborn baby lying in the passenger seat with the placenta and umbilical cord still attached." Miss Biggs had not told her family about her pregnancy, but her father said they were welcoming the baby, Myracle, "with open arms". [The Guardian, 14 August ]

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