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Mother sues NHS after abortion 'fails', leaves one twin alive

20 June 2006

A mother whose abortion failed is suing the NHS for £250,000. Stacy Dow had an abortion in 2001, when pregnant at 16 with twins. One twin survived the operation and is now four years old. Miss Dow's lawyers argue that their client was not told that her abortion might fail, and the Tayside University Hospitals NHS Trust is therefore guilty of breach of warranty. However, health service lawyers say there is no contract between patients and health boards. Miss Dow defends her decision to seek compensation, saying "I have a child now that I wasn't planning to have and the hospital should take some responsibility for that ... I wouldn't dream of giving [my daughter] up for anything now ... but some day I'm going to have to tell her she could have had a brother or sister. How am I ever going to tell her what I did?" [The Daily Record, 20 June]

Scientists at the genetics unit of Guy's Hospital, London, have developed a test which may make it easier to diagnose embryos with genetic diseases prior to implantation. The technique, called pre-implantation genetic haplotyping (PGH), scans the whole DNA profile rather than searching for a single particular mutation. Alison Lockwood, a member of the team, said "Until now, you really had to know the name of the mutation to do a direct test. Now that doesn't matter. The tests will allow embryos affected by Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, cystic fibrosis and other conditions to be discarded . [BBC News, 19 June] Meanwhile a team at University College Hospital, London, are applying for a licence to use sex-selection to screen out possible autism sufferers. Since this condition mainly affects males, it is proposed to allow couples with a family history of the condition to select only female embryos for implantation. Simone Aspis of the British Council of Disabled People warned that "Screening out autism would breed a fear that anyone who is different in any way will not be accepted. Screening for autism would create a society where only perfection is valued". [The Times, 18 June]

Ireland's Minister for Enterprise and Employment, Michael Martin, has said that the Irish government will not try to block a decision to allow EU funds to be used for human embryonic stem cell research, which is prohibited in many member states including the Republic of Ireland. However, MEP Liam Aylward, who like the majority of Irish MEPs voted against the funding, said that "My particular concerns are in relation to the right of individual member states to control the research that is carried out in their countries as well as guaranteeing the utmost respect for the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the human being." [Irish Times, 19 June] The Irish bishops intend to fight the decision, urging the government to press for it to be overturned by the European Council of Ministers. [Irish Independent]

A taskforce led by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington has concluded that local bishops, should judge in individual cases whether pro-abortion Catholic politicians should be admitted to Holy Communion. "Our concern is not politics, nor just particular policies, but their faith and even their salvation. These dialogues are not about winning votes, but saving souls" the Cardinal said. [LifeNews, 16 June]

A law recognising living wills and healthcare guardians is to be debated in Western Australia. The Advanced Health Care Planning Bill would specifically give legal protection to doctors and others acting in compliance with Advance Health Directives. WA Attorney-General Jim McGinty welcomed the bill. Rosanna Capolingua, chairwoman of the Australian Medical Association ethics committee, said the bill was a step in the right direction but it was imperfect. Scott Blackwell, president of Palliative Care WA, said that the legislation "has nothing to do with euthanasia". [The Australian, 17 June]

The Australian national government is likely to reject plans to allow the creation of human embryos explicitly for research purposes, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Currently embryos created for infertility treatment but not used can be experimented on, but they cannot be created for research. The proposals were in the Lockhart report, a review of the Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2002 and Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002. [Sydney Morning Herald, 19 June]

A new study warns that China's one-child policy is likely to have a negative economic impact in the near future. Rod Tyers and Jane Golley of Australian National University predict that China's labour force will begin to shrink in the next ten years, while by 2030 the population over 60 will have doubled, with the working population falling by 10%. China may have to revise its one-child policy to prevent economic decline. [FN Arena, 13 June] China's population policy is also highlighted by Talia Carner's forthcoming novel 'China Doll' which examines the one-child policy, and the conflicts of economic pressures, international business and female infanticide. [EworldWire 12 June]

A £25 million biotechnology centre has been opened in Manchester. Called the Core Technology Facility, the centre will house, along with other companies, the North West Embryonic Stem Cell Centre, which will create human embryos for purposes of research. [Manchester Evening News, 19 June]

Supporters of the human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, who is currently under arrest for his attempts to expose forced abortions, have been prevented by police from attending a press conference. Li Heping, Chen's lawyer, and some other activists were placed under house arrest when they attempted to meet with journalists. [The Standard, 20 June] A statement signed by several lawyers was to have been distributed at the cancelled meeting calling for Chen Guangcheng's release. [Reuters, 19 June] Meanwhile, American researchers have exposed as bogus claims by a Hong Kong doctor to have cured illnesses by injecting cells from aborted foetuses into patients. Dr Bruce H. Dobkin of the University of California, Los Angeles, one of the authors of the study, described Hongyun Huang's claims as "nonsense ... That he would even agree to do this is really frightening to me". [LifeSite, 19 June]

A sex education programme in the Philippines has been withdrawn after protest from the country's Catholic leaders. The programme, praised by the United Nation Fund for Population Activities, included material about over-population and "unwanted pregnancies". The Filipino government has put plans for sex education in schools on hold until after a meeting with the Catholic bishops next week. [LifeSite, 19 June]

The governor of Louisiana, US, has signed a law which would restrict abortion should Roe v. Wade be overturned, returning to states the legal power to restrict abortion. The law, which would allow abortion only in cases of a substantial risk of maternal death, is not subject to any current constitutional challenge because it specifically depends on the reversal of Roe v Wade. [National Right to Life Committee, 19 June]

Promoters of a private member's bill to legalise voluntary euthanasia in South Australia have criticised religious opposition to the bill. Mr Bob Such, the bill's sponsor, and the Voluntary Euthanasia Society have said that MPs should debate the proposal "rationally" and without reference to religion. However, Tom Koutsantonis, another member of the South Australian Parliament, commented "What's important here is not that we have people who use Christian values to make laws, but people who aren't zealots about laws ... people who bring up the same thing over and over again, pushing their own agenda and trying impose their own views on the rest of society, which I think voluntary euthanasia does." [ABC News, 19 June]

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