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British professor calls for involuntary euthanasia

12 June 2006

A British professor of medical ethics has called for euthanasia to be legal without consent of the patient. Len Doyal, emeritus professor of medical ethics at Queen Mary, University of London, wrote that the law should be changed in an article in the journal Clinical Ethics, published by the Royal Society of Medicine. Professor Doyal, who supported Lord Joffe's bill, said that there was no moral difference between removing life-saving treatment and feeding from patients and actively killing them. Peter Saunders, the campaign director of Care Not Killing, said that Professor Doyal was confusing the withdrawal of treatment that was more of a burden than a benefit to a dying patient with actively ending life. He said: "Doyal is advocating the very worst form of medical paternalism whereby doctors can end the lives of patients after making a judgment that their lives are of no value and claim that they are simply acting in their patients' best interests." [The Guardian, 8 June]

The first Polish March for Life and Family has taken place in Warsaw. Over 2,000 people, mostly families and young people participated in the event on June 4th carrying placards and accompanied by a marching band. It is planned to be an annual event. [Life Site, 7 June]

An American Catholic pharmacist, who was fired from his job after refusing to sell abortifacient drugs, has had his appeal dismissed. Neil Noesen brought a suit of religious discrimination against his former employer after he was fired for refusing to fill a prescription for oral contraceptives in May 2002. Wisconsin Judge John Shabaz ruled that his dismissal was legal. [Life Site, 6 June]

An Australian doctor is planning to hold two euthanasia workshops in New Zealand. Dr Philip Nitschke described the workshops places where people could be given "material that enables them to feel that they are in control of their lives and deaths". He is to go ahead with the workshops, after the government decided not to pursue legal action against him, despite a Medical Council complaint that he would be practising medicine illegally by holding such workshops. [The Age, 7 June]

A Chinese woman who has been campaigning against her country's one child policy has been subjected to further harassment by the authorities. Mao Hengfeng, who has already served an 18 month sentence of Re-education Through Labour (RTL) for her pro-life campaigning, was arrested without a warrant by Shanghai police on 23 May. She is now in criminal detention where, human rights groups fear, she is vulnerable to physical and psychological abuse, such as that which she suffered during her past custody. Another human rights activist, Ma Yalian, was prevented from leaving her home on June 5th by police officers stationed outside. [OMCT, 7 June]

The Vatican secretary of state has warned against new threats to human life emerging in Latin America. In a message sent to the Organisation of American States (OAS) in the name of the Pope, Cardinal Angelo Sodano said that although most nations defend all stages of human life in their constitutions, there was increasing pressure to legalise abortion. He said, "The American continent has a tradition of respect for life which is now being threatened by the pressure of currents foreign to its nature." He appealed to the representatives of the 34 countries of the OAS to promote the family based on marriage. [Zenit, 8 June]

A professor of cancer medicine who co-edited a book with Professor Len Doyal has written a letter to the Guardian criticising Doyal's call for euthanasia without consent to be legalised as "breath taking arrogance". Professor Jeffrey Tobias, professor of cancer medicine at University College London Hospital said that while co-editing a book on informed consent in medical research with Doyal he disagreed with him "on almost every point". Professor Tobias wrote that there is a definite distinction between a patient dying of a terminal illness and a doctor's active decision to end a patient's life which they judge to have no further value. He expressed his impatience with "so-called ethicists like Professor Doyal who, by and large, have no medical qualification and no direct experience of the burdens, challenges and privileges of clinical responsibility, but none the less adopt the moral high ground." [The Guardian, 9 June]

One in five people who undergo fertility treatment in Britain do not tell their employers for fear of discrimination, according to a survey by Infertility Network UK. 29% of the 300 people questioned said that they did not tell their boss and colleagues about treatment such as IVF. Two thirds of these said that the reason was that they were worried about the consequence for their career of their employer knowing they were trying to become pregnant. The report does not make clear whether only women were questioned, or whether only IVF or other fertility treatment was in question. Clare Brown, chief executive of Infertility Network UK is quoted, along with Dr Allan Pacey, Honorary Secretary of the British Fertility Society. [BBC News, 9 June]

Scientists have set out new criteria for embryo death which may open the doors for embryonic stem cell research. A research team from Columbia analyzed records of the observations of human embryos in culture that had been generated by IVF. They wrote a report on their findings in the journal Regenerative Medicine. Pharmiweb.com say that if this definition of embryo death is accepted, ethical objections to harvesting embryo stem cells will be avoided. . [Pharmi Web, 2 June]

A Catholic school in America which fired a pro-abortion teacher has been supported by Court of Appeals. The Ursuline Academy of Wilmington in Delaware sacked Michele Curay-Cramer when she signed a public advertisement in a local paper on the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, supporting the decision that legalised abortion in the US on the same day that a group of students from the school travelled to Washington to take part in a pro-life protest. She later sued the school, claiming sex discrimination. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed her claims, affirming that religious organizations have the right "to create and maintain communities composed solely of individuals faithful to their doctrinal practices." [Life Site, 8 June]

Residents who share a block of flats in Zurich with the assisted suicide charity Dignitas, have started a campaign to evict the organisation from the building. Over the past eight years, over 450 people have killed themselves in the fourth floor apartment owned by the charity. Gloria Sonny, 53, who has lived there for six years and is leading the campaign to get rid of Dignitas said, "We call it the 'House of Horrors'. This is meant to be a residential flat but some days you'd think it was a morgue." [The Telegraph, 4 June]

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