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Defending life
from conception to natural death


Weekly Update: 25 - 31 January 2006

31 January 2006

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

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." [Scottish Herald, 26 January]

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." [Telegraph, 26 January; Guardian, 25 January]

Three organisations involved with palliative care have condemned the Voluntary Euthanasia Society's decision to change its name to Dignity in Dying. In a letter to the Guardian, David Praill of Help the Hospices, Thomas Hughes-Hallett of Marie Curie Cancer Care and Eve Richardson of The National Council for Palliative Care, wrote that "the implication of this now widely publicised name is that euthanasia is the only dignified death." They added: "This is manifestly untrue and will be misleading for vulnerable patients and their families. We believe the development of excellent palliative care at the end of life in the last decade has ensured that thousands of people have experienced a dignified death." [Guardian, 27 January]

The Guardian newspaper has run a strongly pro-abortion article on couples who make the 'agonising decision' to abort their disabled babies. [Guardian, 26 January] Alison Davis, co-ordinator of the disability rights group No Less Human, criticised the approach taken. "This article concentrates on two such babies, one aborted for spina bifida and the other for heart problems," she explained. "The assumptions about the negative value of these babies lives is truly breathtaking. Having been born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus myself I was appalled to see that the baby with spina bifida was dismissed as 'a child who couldn't be anything.'"

A report by the think tank Women's Forum Australia has suggested that 'financial concerns' and 'lack of commitment from a male partner' are the most common reasons cited by women for having an abortion. Data included surveys of women waiting at abortion facilities. There are around 84,000 abortions in Australia every year. In a separate story, Australians Against RU-486 lobbied more than 500 churches of different denominations yesterday and it is hoped that over 75,000 letters have been written as part of the campaign. [The Australian, 30 January]

The manufacturer of a drug used with RU-486 to complete the abortion has warned that it cannot vouch for its safety when used in pregnancy. Misoprostol is taken after RU-486 to expel the dead baby, but a spokesman for Pfizer Australia said that Misoprostol should not be used for this purpose. A Senate committee is currently considering a bill to legalise RU-486 in Australia. [The Australian, 31 January]

A Canadian woman has been sentenced to three years probation after admitting to killing her son using sleeping pills and a plastic bag. Marielle Houle's son Charles Fariala had multiple sclerosis and allegedly depression and her lawyer described the crime as an act of 'unconditional love.' However, Alex Schadenberg, head of Ontario's Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said that Ms Houle should have been charged with second degree murder not assisting a suicide as she tied the bag over her son's head. [LifeSiteNews, 30 January]

The Human Genetics Commission has expressed concerns about the exploitation of 'designer babies' created to be donors to a sick sibling. In a report, the HGC warned that once children have been created for the purpose of aiding another, they could easily be viewed as a permanent source of spare parts and be expected to give regular tissue donations or even organ donations if necessary. Josephine Quintavalle of Comment on Reproductive Ethics commented: "These issues are absolutely what we have been worried about. And they should be thought about before children are used as guinea pigs in a social experiment." [British Nursing News Online, 31 January]

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