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Defending life from the moment of conception

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weekly update, 29 November to 6 December

6 December 2006

Weekly Update, 29 November to 6 December 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 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- to 19-year-olds since 1995.

[BBC News, 1 December ] The Guttmacher institute is the research arm of the IPPF affiliate, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

A newspaper has publicised embryo screening technique for cystic fibrosis after it was confirmed that the child of Mr Gordon Brown had been diagnosed with the disease.

Pre-implantation genetic haplotyping involves checking embryos for up to 6,000 inherited illnesses.

Healthy embryos are implanted in the mother's womb and those who 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 ]


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