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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Police ask CPS over doctor's Dignitas death

26 January 2006

UK police are seeking advice from the Crown Prosecution Service about whether to question a family who accompanied their mother to Switzerland so that she could die by assisted suicide. Dr Anne Turner, who had progressive supranuclear palsy, took a lethal dose of barbiturates in a flat in Zurich with the help of the euthanasia organisation Dignitas. Dr Michael Irwin, the former chairman of Dignity in Dying (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society), is being investigated in a separate case for giving 'advice, counsel and encouragement' to five Britons seeking to commit suicide in Switzerland. Dr Irwin also said that he has accompanied a terminally ill patient from Scotland to Switzerland for assisted suicide. A spokesman for Dignity in Dying criticised Dr Irwin's actions, saying that his heart was in the right place but they were "just not sure about his head." [The Telegraph, 26 January and The Guardian, 25 January]

A Scottish Catholic bishop has condemned the Government's policy on abortions for under-16s following the failure of the Sue Axon legal challenge. Bishop Joseph Devine said of the policy, which allows under-16s to undergo abortions without parental knowledge or consent: "On the one hand, as part of its respect agenda, the government quite correctly demands greater accountability from parents for the actions of their children. It then adopts a conflicting position by keeping parents in the dark about their teenage daughter's abortion plans." [The Scottish Herald, 26 January]

A Conservative MP and columnist for the Daily Telegraph has written in favour of the Joffe Bill that would legalise assisted suicide in the UK. Whilst accepting the risks involved in legalising assisted suicide, Boris Johnson described the Joffe Bill as 'reasonable' and expressed the opinion that 'it might be better than seeing increasing numbers of British people forced to take their lives in a foreign country.' [The Telegraph, 26 January]

A member of the House of Lords select committee on Lord Joffe's assisted dying for the terminally ill bill has stated in a letter to The Guardian that a pro-euthanasia leader article in the paper misrepresented the committee's findings on Oregon's assisted suicide law. Far from finding 'no problems' with the US state's law, Ilora Finlay, professor of palliative care at Cardiff University, stated that the committee was informed that the majority of Oregon doctors refuse to involve themselves with assisted suicide and the accuracy of assisted suicide figures is impossible to verify. [The Guardian, 26 January]

Uganda's Catholic Bishops' Conference has written an open letter to the government and people of Uganda warning against the ratification of the 'Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights: on the rights of women in Africa'. The protocol includes an obligation to legalise abortion under certain circumstances. The bishops' letter stated: "Abortion is always a defeat for humanity: the elaborate, mixed and confused semantics under which it is increasingly disguised by powerful lobbies at work in many of the International and national fora, also here in Uganda, will never hide the fact that it is a wilful homicide of the most defenceless form of life." [All Africa, 25 January]

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