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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Journalist arrested after describing how she killed her relative with morphine

8 March 2006

A journalist from Birmingham, UK, has been arrested on suspicion of murder after she described in her column for the Birmingham Mail how she used morphine to kill her great aunt Eileen O'Sullivan, who suffered from lung cancer. Maureen Messent, who describes herself as a Roman Catholic, said it never crossed her mind that she was committing a sin. "That night ... her rasping and obvious pain became worse and worse. I had to stop that noise and the pain I knew she felt when she tried to breathe in... I knew what had to be done," she wrote. The editor of the newspaper said that Ms Messent was aware of the consequences of publishing the article. [The Guardian, 6 March]

A young mother from Sunderland, north-east England, has spoken of her relief that she followed her maternal instinct not to have an abortion when told that her baby was 100% brain damaged. Stacy Jackson and her partner, Lee Scott, were told that their son was unlikely to survive after birth, and advised to seek abortion. However, a second consultant gave the baby a 60% chance of survival, and they went ahead with the pregnancy. The baby, Jaxon, has had surgery for fluid on the brain and a colostomy, but has no brain damage. [Sunday Sun, 5 March]

The parents of a severely disabled boy, known as MB, are fighting a case in the UK High Court to prevent doctors from removing the artificial ventilation which enables him to stay alive. A doctor giving evidence in court this week said that, due to his severe and worsening paralysis, MB is living an "intolerable life". His mother said: "We are very hopeful we can persuade the court that his quality of life is good enough so that treatment should not be withdrawn". [The Times, 6 March]

Pope Benedict XVI has affirmed the human dignity of the disabled in a message sent in support of the Brazilian Catholic Church's Fraternity Campaign. The message said that Christian charity toward the disabled must go beyond only tenderness and compassion, and that the dignity which is an "intrinsic part" of human life, regardless of a person's circumstances or capabilities, must be respected. [Zenit, 7 March] In a Lenten meeting with priests of his diocese of Rome, the Pope urged them to defend the family. He also spoke of the danger of a society which forgets God falling into a "culture of death", referring to the Pope John Paul II's encyclical Evangelium Vitae. [Zenit, 2 March]

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel's Delegation for Relations with Catholic Church and Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews have signed a joint statement on respect for human life. The statement declares: "Because life is a Divine gift to be respected and preserved, we perforce reject the idea of human ownership of life and of the right of any human party to decide its value or extent". It also affirms that: "there must be limits to the application of science and technology in recognition of the fact that not everything which is technically feasible is ethical". [Zenit, 2 March]

The Archbishop of Lima, Peru, has urged voters to give thought to life issues in the forthcoming elections. Speaking on his radio program, Dialogue of Faith, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriana emphasised that the Church would not tell people to vote for a particular candidate but asked listeners to consider those candidates who defend life and the family. [Zenit, 7 March]

Professor Ian Wilmut has admitted that most of the credit for the famous cloning experiment which produced Dolly the sheep belongs to his colleague. Prof Wilmut's name was given as the lead author because of a prior agreement with Dr Keith Campbell, who with scientist Bill Ritchie devised the essential scientific techniques. Prof Wilmut's comments came during an employment tribunal hearing at which he is accused of racially harassing and bullying another colleague. [Daily Telegraph, 8 March]

Women who suffer infertility due to abnormalities of the uterus or fallopian tubes could be at higher risk of ectopic pregnancy resulting from artificial reproduction techniques, according to research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Georgia. Dr Laura A Schieve studied the incidence of ectopic pregnancy, and found that tubal and uterine abnormalities increased the risk of ectopic pregnancy by 38% to 168%, and that a technique known as ZIFT, which involves implanting in vitro conceived embryos into the fallopian tube, increased the risk by 75%. [Reuters, 7 March]

Researchers at the Max Delbruck Centre for Molecular Medicine and the Charité University Medical School, Berlin, Germany, have conducted experiments on mice which suggest that exercise during pregnancy may benefit brain development in the foetus. Dr Anika Bick-Sandermann and Dr Gerd Kampermann found that the offspring of mice who exercised voluntarily during pregnancy developed about 40% more neuronal cells than a control group. No certain conclusions regarding human beings can as yet be drawn from the research. [Medical News Today, 7 March]

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