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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Scientists call for more scrutiny of embryo studies

6 December 2006

A panel of American scientists has called for more scrutiny of human embryonic stem cell studies published by scientific journals. The panel was commissioned by the journal Science, which previously published two fabricated papers by the North Korean researcher Hwang Woo-suk, who falsely claimed to have cloned 11 embryonic stem cell lines. John Brauman, a chemist from Stanford University who led the panel, recommended four changes in the journal's reviewing procedure after examining how Hwang's reports had originally been handled. Science editor-in-chief Don Kennedy said: "The environment for science has changed ... an enhanced reputation, visibility, position or cash rewards is sufficiently high that some may not adhere to the usual scientific standards." [Medical News Today, 1 December]

The family of a Norfolk woman who died of leukemia has called for euthanasia to be legalised in the UK. Joy Hayes, 27, who had two children, asked family members to help her to die but they refused. Mrs Hayes's husband Chris, 27, said: "If I did not have the two children to look after I would have helped her to die rather than watch her in pain like that. .... I just think euthanasia should be legal. It was something she wanted and we should have been allowed to help her do it." Mrs Hayes's mother, Andrea Hubbard, said she would have turned off her daughter's oxygen to end her life, but could not bear to inflict the suffering entailed on her daughter. [Evening News 24, 29 November]

A provincial parliament in China has banned gender selective abortion. The parliament of Henan approved a number of laws making the practice illegal in an attempt to reduce the shortage of females in the region, which is the most populous in the country. [The Times, 1 December]

The RU-486 abortion pill may contain a drug that could be used to prevent the growth of breast tumours among women who are genetically predisposed to breast cancer, according to American scientists. Researchers found that the pill, also known as mifepristone, stops the development of breast cancers caused by mutations in the BRCA1 gene by blocking the female hormone progesterone. Research is continuing. [The Times, 1 December]

An American study has claimed that the promotion of abstinence is not an effective way to decrease teen pregnancy rates. Researchers from the Guttmacher Institute and Columbia University say that abstinence accounts for only 14% of the drop in conceptions among 15-19 year olds since 1995. [BBC News, 1 December] The Guttmacher institute is the research arm of the IPPF affiliate, the Plannned Parenthood Federation of America.

A British newspaper has publicised embryo screening technique for cystic fibrosis after it was confirmed that the child of the UK finance minister had been diagnosed with the disease. Pre-implantation genetic haplotyping involves checking embryos for up to 6,000 inherited illnesses. Healthy embryos are then implanted into the mother's womb and those that have the disease are destroyed. The Daily Mail focused on the case of Jim and Catherine Greenstreet who had the technique performed after their daughter, Lizzie was born with cystic fibrosis. Their twins Freddie and Thomas were the first British babies to be delivered using this process at the end of October. [Daily Mail, 30 November]

Abortion advocates in Nicaragua have claimed that the country's ban on abortion has caused the death of a pregnant woman. In October the National Assembly voted to pass a bill that bans abortions in all cases, including rape and when the mother's health is at risk. Jazmina Bojorge, and her five month old unborn child, both died in hospital in Managua from an unknown cause after arriving in hospital complaining of fever and abdominal pains. Juanita Jimenez of the Women's Autonomous Movement of Nicaragua, claimed that doctors should have immediately aborted the baby. Julio Cesar Flores, director of the Fernando Velez Paiz Hospital, said Ms Bojorge's death "has nothing to do with the abortion law" and that the case was being studied by medical authorities. [Medical News Today, 30 November]

British scientists have developed a treatment for back pain using adult stem cells. Researchers from the University of Manchester found that damaged tissue between the discs in the back, which is the usual cause of back pain, can be regenerated using stem cells from the patient's own bone marrow. The research team hopes to begin large pre-clinical trials next year. [This is London, 1 December]

A severely disabled British woman has given birth after allegedly having been raped. The woman, who has not been named, lives in Bolton, Greater Manchester, and suffers from serious physical and learning disabilities, meaning that she is unable to communicate. The alleged rapist has not yet been found. [BBC News, 29 November]

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