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Defending life from the moment of conception

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English couple petition HFEA for 'saviour sibling'

4 May 2006

A couple in England have asked the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority if they will let doctors select an IVF embryo who, if born, could provide tissue to treat their 20-month-old daughter's diamond blackfan anaemia. Mr and Mrs Charlie Mariethoz of Leicester are raising £40,000 for Charlotte's treatment, which would involve taking stem cells from the new child's umbilical cord. [This is Leicestershire, 2 May] Customarily, when embryos are chosen for their suitability to provide tissue for therapy, the embryos who are not selected are frozen, discarded or experimented on.

A Welsh politician has called for a review of the law after it was suggested that patients might be given stem cell injections in international waters. Dr Dai Lloyd, a nationalist member of the Welsh assembly and a physician, expressed his concerns at reports that Advanced Cell Therapeutics of Switzerland could supply a multiple sclerosis therapy which has been banned in the UK to people aboard a ferry between Britain and Ireland. The Irish Medicines Board has suspended supply of the same type of injection. The Swansea Cork Ferries company forbids medical procedures on its vessels. [icWales, 3 May]

A 63-year-old woman is reportedly seven months' pregnant through IVF. Dr Patricia Rashbrook, a child psychiatrist of Sussex, England, is said to have spent some £50,000 on treatment in Italy with Dr Severino Antinori. She is married with two children in their 20s. [The Times, 4 May]

Nurses in Britain will reportedly be allowed to prescribe almost all types of medicine. Those wanting the extended powers would need to be trained. The British Medical Association, the doctors' body, expressed concern but has since curtailed its opposition. [Adfero on netdoctor, 2 May]

The United Nations wants developing nations to improve pregnant women's diet. The UN children's fund called for such moves as part of an initiative to help the 146 million children under five who are under-weight. [Reuters, 2 May]

The Florida judge who ordered the cessation of tube feeding for the late Mrs Terri Schiavo has criticised legislators for their involvement in such decisions. Judge George Greer asserted that a law to require a resumption of Mrs Schiavo's feeding was scarcely debated. The office of Mr Jeb Bush, state governor, said that the bill had had the most debate of any law that session. [AP on the Guardian, 2 May]

A lack of vitamin D in pregnancy could mean that babies are smaller when born, according to a Canadian study of some 280 women. The McGill University, Montréal, work is reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. American researchers are experimenting with giving expectant mothers more than the recommended amount of the vitamin. [Reuters Health, 2 May]

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