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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Ohio Supreme Court approves 'wrongful birth' lawsuits

17 March 2006

The Ohio State Supreme Court has issued a 4-3 ruling allowing parents to sue doctors if they fail to diagnose a severe or fatal condition in an unborn child that would have caused the parents to seek an abortion had they been aware of it. Richard and Helen Schirmer won a ruling in favour of damages for the costs of pregnancy and birth, but were disallowed claims for emotional damages or the costs of bringing up their disabled son, now eight. In the majority verdict, Justice Maureen O'Connor noted: "The crux of this case is a comparison of nonexistence versus existence, albeit impaired." [The Guardian, 4 March]. The New York Times magazine recently published a feature on such 'wrongful birth' lawsuits. Elizabeth Weil, who has herself aborted a handicapped child, asked whether parents are given an accurate picture of life with a disabled child, and about the reliability of pre-natal testing. "We may not want to give birth to disabled children, but at the same time we do not want to see ourselves as reproducing in a way that calls to mind prize cattle", Weil writes. [New York Times magazine, 12 March]

The Canadian Religious Conference, the official representative of Catholic religious congregations in Canada, has issued a statement which dissents from their church's teaching on various moral issues including assisted suicide. The statement says "[W]e regret ... [t]he unconditional alignment of our Church with directives issued from Rome" and urges Canada's bishops to ask for change in moral doctrines during their ad limina visit to the Vatican. Some individual Canadian religious have commented that their views are not represented by the statement. [LifeSite, 8 March]

The Voluntary Euthanasia Society, now renamed Dignity in Dying, has published a poll which it claims shows that up to 62% of doctors administer pain relief in the knowledge that it may hasten death. The group says the survey shows that the law needs to be changed to protect doctors from prosecution. [The Guardian, 7 March] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, commented: "It is a well-known tactic of the euthanasia lobby to imply that the deaths of patients are often hastened by the routine administration of high doses of pain relief. In fact, data suggests that such pain relief is more likely to lengthen rather than shorten life. Medical staff and the public should reject the euthanasia lobby's attempt to make the proposed legalisation of intentional killing by lethal injection seem little more than the regularisation of common practice."

The Guardian has published a feature article looking at 'egg freezing' technology, in which, rather than freeze in-vitro conceived embryos, eggs taken from a woman are frozen, and later fertilised and implanted. The technique has usually been used for medical reasons, such as when a woman has to undergo fertility-threatening cancer treatment, or by couples undergoing IVF who object to the freezing of human embryos. However, an increasing number of women are paying to have their eggs frozen for 'lifestyle' reasons, so that they can delay motherhood to fit in with their career, or until they find a suitable partner. Fertility practitioners remain divided on the advisability of this tendency. [Guardian, 4 March] Meanwhile some NHS trusts are reportedly offering free IVF treatment to single women, claiming they fear being sued for denying women a right to motherhood. [The Independent, 5 March]

Nigeria's bishops have warned against the promotion of anti-life legislation. In the statement issued on 16th March after the meeting of the Catholic Bishops' Conference in Abuja, the bishops criticised the Bill on the Establishment of a National Reproductive Health Institute. "We urge all men and women of goodwill to join hands in denouncing the culture of death in all its forms and promoting the culture of life", the statement said. [, 15 March]

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