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Defending life
from conception to natural death


weekly update, 15 to 23 November

23 November 2006

weekly update, 15 to 23 November The Nuffield Council on Bioethics, one of the UK's most influential bioethics forums, has recommended that babies born at 24-25 weeks' gestation, most of whom can survive with neo-natal intensive care, should not receive such treatment if the "level of suffering outweighs the baby's interest in continuing to live." The Telegraph notes that there has been discussion on the issue of infant euthanasia in anticipation of the report. [Telegraph 15 November , Nuffield website ]. No Less Human, SPUC's disability group, pointed out that the decision not to treat a baby because it has a disability or low chance of survival is nothing short of eugenics. "Disabled people view this as an encouragement of the attitude that we are better off dead, and it represents a further step towards active killing of disabled newborns," said Alison Davis. [SPUC 15 November] The Church of England's House of Bishops and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales jointly welcomed the Nuffield Council's against active euthanasia for newborn babies. Their statement said that, while recognising that treatment that was disproportionately painful, intrusive, risky, or costly could be withheld or withdrawn, such cases should be treated individually, and should not be subject to a blanket ruling dependent on age. [Ekklesia 15 November] A medical ethics expert at the University of East Anglia welcomed the report, saying that babies younger than 22 weeks had little chance of survival. Dr Christopher Cowley suggested that a blanket rule was fairer than deciding who should receive treatment and who not. He acknowledged that parents and clinicians would often see things differently. The chairman of the medical ethics committee of the British Medical Association said that blanket rules were not helpful and that each case should be considered on its merits and circumstances. [Eastern Daily Press 16 November] A judge in the High Court of the Republic of Ireland has ruled that frozen embryos are not protected by the constitution, as he considered that the term 'unborn' in the Irish constitution refers only to a foetus or embryo implanted in the womb. Mr Justice Brian McGovern gave a complex 26-page judgement on the issue, according to Breaking News. The ruling is part of the case of an estranged couple's disagreement over the fate of their three frozen embryos. [Breaking News 15 November] The director of European Life Network said the decision misinterpreted the constitution by ignoring the definitive Irish text, which makes no distinction between an embryo before or after implantation. Mr Patrick Buckley said that a government attempt to amend the constitution so that legal protection would only begin at implantation was rejected in a referendum. [SPUC 16 November ] The Pro Life Campaign, expressing disappointment at the ruling, has called for a new law to protect the human embryo, since lack of clarity with regard to the right to life undermines the basis for all other rights. [Breaking News 15 November] A woman in the so-called persistent vegetative state will be given a drug that could improve her condition, against the wishes of her family. The treatment has been approved in the family division of the English High Court, at the request of the Official Solicitor who believes that every effort should be made to save a life. [BBC, 20 November ] SPUC reported on the zolpidem discovery in September. A survey by the Alan Guttmacher Institute in the USA, which was named after the founder of the pro-abortion Planned Parenthood Foundation of America, claims that about half of all American women who had abortions in 2002 had undergone at least one previous abortion. Women who had repeat abortions tended to be over 30 years old and 60% had at least one born child already. Most were using contraception at the time of the abortion. [Reuters 21 November ] A German nurse has been found guilty of illegal euthanasia, murder or manslaughter of 28 of his patients. Most of the victims were elderly, but some were in their forties. Not all were seriously ill. [BBC, 20 November ] Charges have been dropped against journalist Maureen Messent of Birmingham, England, who claimed in an article that she gave a fatal overdose of morphine to her aunt Eileen O'Sullivan in Devon. Inquiries showed that Ms Messent was nowhere near Ms O'Sullivan at the time of her death, which was from natural causes. Ms Messent was charged with wasting police time, but the charges have now been withdrawn. [BBC 22 November ] More than a year after the Scottish Executive launched a multi-million pound sexual health strategy, sexually transmitted infections are up by seven percent to more than 20,000, while teenage pregnancy rates remain high. Andy Kerr, the Scottish health minister insisted nevertheless that in the long term the strategy will change attitudes through more services and education initiatives. [Scotsman 22 November ] A study, published in the British Medical Journal, of a new sex education programme suggests that it is no more effective in cutting rates of teenage pregnancy and abortions than traditional lessons. The programme, called Share, was developed by doctors and includes interactive videos and role play. [Guardian, 21 November ]

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