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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Charlotte Wyatt to be discharged from hospital

22 December 2006

The disabled child who has been at the centre of a court case over her treatment is to be discharged from hospital. Charlotte Wyatt's parents took hospital authorities to court to challenge doctors' decision that Charlotte should not be artificially ventilated if her breathing stopped again. Mr and Mrs Wyatt separated in February and Charlotte, who is seriously brain-damaged, will be placed with foster carers. [BBC, 20 December]

110 members of the US House of Representatives have signed a letter calling for the removal of a government official on the grounds that he had once worked for a pregnancy crisis charity which promotes abstinence and discourages contraception.. The 107 Democrats and three Republicans object to John Keroack as head of a department for Health and Human Services (HHS) programme which includes contraceptive provision. The HHS has previously stated that Dr Keroack will prescribe birth control as required by law, and that he did so in the past at his private practice. [Reuters, 20 December]

The Catholic Church and other groups have expressed opposition to a move by the Chilean Health Minister to distribute the morning-after pill free to women as young as 14. The plan had been delayed by a legal challenge filed by two parents and the Mayor of La Florida, but the Santiago Appeals Court has now rejected the suit. According the New York Times, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Chile stated that the scheme is "reminiscent of public policies established in totalitarian regimes, by which the state aimed to regulate the intimate lives of its citizens". [Medical News Today, 20 December]

The Virginia Commonwealth University has conducted a survey on public attitudes to bio-science. The survey shows that most Americans (54%) support embryo stem cell research, but the number has declined from last year's figure of 58%. 1000 Americans were quizzed over the telephone in November about cloning, stem cell research - adult and embryo, and attitudes to genetic manipulation. They were also asked their religion and views on abortion. [Medical News Today, 20 December and VCU 2006 survey]

Scientists in the UK have been given a grant by Heart Research UK to try to develop heart artery tissue from skin stem cells. The researchers, led by Andrew Owens of Durham University and James Cook University Hospital, hope the technique will be used in heart bypass operations. Patients would have cells of the type found in a normal artery grown from their own skin stem cells and implanted, rather than blood vessels grafted from other parts of the body. [BBC, 20 December]

A study published by the British Medical Journal has found that women who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn's disease, are twice as likely to have prematurely-born children, or children with low birth weight. They are also one and a half times as likely to need a Caesarean section as healthy women. [Ananova, 21 December]

An Australian study has found that taking fish oil during pregnancy can improve the child's hand-eye co-ordination. The study, carried out at the University of Western Australia, involved 98 women. When tested at two and a half, the children of the women who had taken daily doses of fish oil during their pregnancies scored significantly higher at hand-eye co-ordination skills. [Sky, 21 December]

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