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Defending life from the moment of conception

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British mother sues manufacturer over pregnancy drugs

5 June 2006

A British mother is suing a drug manufacturer who reportedly failed to warn her about the effects that taking anti-epileptic drugs during pregnancy could have on her unborn child. Saffron Palmer, 36, who suffers from epilepsy, gave birth to a daughter Caitlin two years ago who has now been diagnosed with foetal anti-convulsant syndrome. Caitlin suffers from a cleft palate, learning difficulties, growth problems and glue ear. Her mother said, "I never regret having her and wouldn't change her for the world. She's beautiful. But it's been very hard watching her through all these operations. She is a happy little girl, but gets recurrent chest infections. She's on antibiotics every month and apparently this is all part of the syndrome. I don't think it's fair. It is not about the money to us, but someone should be responsible for this." [This is Staffordshire, 2 June]

Cuts in the National Health Service are affecting the funding of IVF in Britain. Health chiefs at the North Lincolnshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) have said that no new couples will be referred for fertility treatment for almost a year. Attempts to cut costs at the hospital have caused temporary restrictions on non life-threatening treatments. Claire Brown chairman of the National Infertility Awareness Campaign, said: "we would urge the PCT to reassess its decision." [Yorkshire Today, 1 June]

An Italian minister has said that he has withdrawn Italy's signature from a European ethics document signed by the Vatican which aims to restrict embryonic stem cell research. The document, which was signed by the government of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, is opposed to spending taxpayer funds on embryonic research. Research Minister Fabio Mussi has been criticised by members of the opposition and by the Catholic Church for withdrawing Italy's signature from the document. Family Minister Rosy Bindi that he was not informed of the Minister Mussi's intention and that he had "reasons to doubt that it was a collective decision." [Life News, 31 May]

A British adult stem cell research firm has received an award for its achievements. Future Health Technologies, an umbilical cord blood stem cell bank in Nottingham was awarded the Export Achievement Award for its work in overseas markets. Operations manager, Mark Tooby, said, "Research has shown that stem cells taken from the umbilical cord can potentially be used in a whole range of medical conditions, from heart disease to multiple sclerosis." [This is Nottingham, 1 June]

The annual Presbyterian Meeting in the US in June is likely to debate the issue of abortion, after three appeals by members to make the church body more pro-life. The current policy of the Presbyterian church is to support abortion rights, although they say that partial birth abortion is "a matter of grave moral concern." [Christian Today, 1 June]

Police in Wales are investigating claims that a man travelled to a Swiss clinic for an assisted death. Detective Chief Inspector Peter Azopardi of South Wales Police said, "Swansea CID are currently investigating an allegation that a Swansea man in his 40s attended a clinic in Switzerland for an assisted death...The inquiries are still ongoing and will result in a file being compiled for consideration by the Crown Prosecution Service." [BBC News, 1 June]

A British fertility expert has criticised the government's publication of IVF clinics in league tables. Lord Winston attacked the figures released yesterday in the form of a website by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, saying that it is an unreliable way to assess how good a clinic is. He said, "Unfortunately they don't compare like with like. There's no way [patients] can assess how well a clinic is doing from those tables because some clinics go out of their way to treat difficult cases; others try to treat easy cases." [The Guardian, 2 June]

The quoted 'live birth rate' for IVF increased to 21.6% per treatment cycle in the year to 31 March 2004, up from 20.4% the previous year, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. But among older women, rates were much lower. Among 40-42 year-olds, only 4.9% of treatment cycles led to a live birth. In all 29,688 women had 38,264 treatment cycles, resulting in 8251 births and a total of 10,242 children were born, including twins and triplets. The HFEA said that multiple births remain high but it was down to others to assess the risks. [The Herald, 2 June]

A group of US congressmen and women are visiting Britain to find out about embryonic stem cell research in the UK. They have met with researchers, government officials and regulatory agencies. Members of the delegation said that leadership in the field of embryonic stem cell research had shifted to the UK after President Bush's cuts on state support for such research in the US. The President said that a bill to remove financial restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, which was passed in the House of Representatives last year was "a grave mistake" and it is thought that he may use his presidential veto against the bill. [The Guardian, 1 June]

The Prime Minister of Pakistan has said that the population growth in the country needs to be checked. Speaking at a follow-up meeting on the last year's Islamabad Declaration on Population and Development, Mr Shaukat Aziz said that sustainable development was directly related to population stabilization. Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world. with a population of 156.26 million. However, the growth rate has declined from 3% in the 1980s to the current rate of 1.86% per year. The government hopes to limit future population to 195 million. [PakTribune, 31 May]

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