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Defending life
from conception to natural death


Weekly Update: 10 - 17 January 2006

10 January 2006

Catch up on all the big news stories from the past week - here are some you may have missed:

The president of Seoul National University, where Hwang Woo-suk, the disgraced stem cell scientist, was professor, has apologised for the fraud that took place at his school. Chung Un-chan said: "Hwang's research team did something scientists should never do. This incident left a mark that cannot be erased in Korea and the international science community. For embarrassing the country, as the president of this university, I am deeply to sorry to everyone." [Reuters, 11 January]

Stem cell researchers are planning to create a hybrid rabbit-human embryo as an alternative to cloning human embryos. The team of scientists, including Professor Ian Wilmut who cloned Dolly the sheep, had originally planned to use human eggs to clone human embryos, working in collaboration with Professor Hwang Woo-suk of Seoul National University. However, after it emerged that his claims to have cloned embryonic stem cells were fake, the team reportedly decided to find an alternative. They are in discussions with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to obtain permission to use rabbit eggs. [Telegraph, 12 December]

A British woman suffering from multiple sclerosis is to travel to Holland for a stem cell operation that will cost £13,500. Julia Sandeman, 33, will undergo an operation which involves using cells from adult bone marrow and umbilical cords. This treatment is unavailable in Britain. Miss Sandeman's father said: "There is nothing the NHS can do for her. She has deteriorated over the last six years. But there is a strong hope that stem cells will help so we have to go for it." [BBC News, 11 January]

Paul Burstow, the Liberal Democrat Health Spokesman is proposing a bill in parliament calling for an improvement in the standard of meals in care homes for the elderly. It is reported that a fifth of all homes leave residents at "high risk" of malnutrition due to low budget and inadequate training of staff. [Channel 4 News, 10 January] Another study carried out by Mr Burstow found that over 3000 people a year die alone and uncared for. Between 2000 and 2004, approximately 16,000 funerals had to be arranged by local authorities, as no family or friends came forward to make the arrangements. Mr Burstow, who supported the Mental Capacity Bill, said, "We all have a responsibility to look out and care for vulnerable neighbours, friends and relatives." [Sutton Guardian, 5 January] SPUC general secretary Paul Tully commented, "Ironically, Mr Burstow was one of the leading supporters of the recent Mental Capacity Act, which authorises, and, in some instances, will compel doctors to withdraw food and fluids from incapacitated elderly people so that they die."

Pope Benedict XVI has spoken out against the abortion drug, RU-486, to Italian politicians. In a meeting in advance of the elections on 9 April, the Pope said that politicians should not "introduce pharmaceuticals that in one way or another hide the grave nature of abortion." RU-486 is currently illegal in Italy. [ABC News, 12 January]

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