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Defending life
from conception to natural death


Police will take no action after assisted suicide - No Less Human reacts

27 September 2006

British police are to take no action in the case of a terminally ill man who died in an assisted suicide death in Switzerland. Paul Bennett, 47, from Swansea, who suffered from motor neurone disease, was taken to a Swiss clinic last May by family members and friends where he died. South Wales Police had initially launched an inquiry into his death but has now been advised by the Crown Prosecution Service that no further action should be taken on the grounds of public interest. Detective Chief Inspector Peter Azzopardi, head of Swansea CID, said: "This case has evoked a variety of comments within the media with arguments being put forward in respect of both sides of the debate concerning assisted death. I was profoundly moved by the closeness and love that Paul's family and friends had for him and one can understand the dilemma they faced in such tragic circumstances. I would ask that his family and friends are allowed to grieve him and move forward with their lives. I fully support the Crown Prosecution Service's decision." [BBC News, 25 September] Anne Savoury, a member of No Less Human in south Wales, commented: "Mr Azzopardi's comments are unacceptable. It is not the place of a policeman to imply support for the decriminalisation of assisted suicide. There is no 'love' or 'dilemma' in assisted suicide. Agreeing with someone that they are better off dead is an act of abandonment which undermines the most straightforward rule of a loving society - intentional killing of the innocent is always wrong."

SPUC has condemned Tony Blair's endorsement of embryonic stem cell research in his farewell speech to the Labour party conference. Mr Blair said: "America does not want stem cell research, we do, we welcome it here." Mr Blair was referring to embryonic stem cell research, which kills embryonic children in order to extract their stem cells. US President George W. Bush has banned federal funding for such destructive extraction. (The US supports stem cell research using non-embryo tissue.) Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, commented: "Not only does embryonic stem cell research kill innocent human beings at their most vulnerable stage of life, but is increasingly redundant in the light of the frequent advances in ethical alternatives such as adult stem cell research. Adult stem cell research is already benefiting human patients in over 70 conditions, whereas embryonic stem cell research has delivered no benefits. Embryonic stem cell research receives substantial financial backing from Labour party donors such as Sir Christopher Evans, one of those arrested in the cash-for-honours investigation. Does the Labour party really want to associate itself even more closely in a field which is increasingly under suspicion?" [SPUC, 26 September]

A British couple, who were advised by doctors to abort their unborn child because he had a cyst in one lung, have brought him home for the first time since his birth in June. Rachel Whittaker and Dr Matt Capehorn were told by doctors at Jessop's Hospital in Sheffield that their baby's condition, Congenital Cystic Adenomatoid Malformation, meant that he would not survive pregnancy. However, they contacted with Professor Kypros Nicolaides who operated on the baby in the womb to drain the cyst at the Harris Birthright Centre in London. Miss Whittaker went into premature labour , but baby William survived. [This is London, 26 September] Anthony Ozimic of SPUC commented: "Although we rejoice that baby William was saved, we greatly regret that Professor Nicolaides does not stand up consistently for unborn children. As well as performing abortions, including on disabled babies, he has developed techniques used to 'search and destroy' disabled babies. We would urge him to reject this deeply conflicted approach and defend the lives of all his patients."

The US Congressional Executive Commission on China has reported that Chinese population planning laws "contravene international human rights standards". The 2006 report criticises methods used to implement the country's one-child policy such as "pervasive propaganda, mandatory monitoring of women's reproductive cycles, mandatory contraception, mandatory birth permits, coercive fines for failure to comply, and, in some cases, forced sterilization and abortion." The report said that the birth control policy has led to severe gender imbalances in the country, resulting in problems such as the trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation. It also called on the Chinese government to release campaigner Chen Guangcheng, who has been sentenced to four years and three months' imprisonment, after he drew international attention to population planning abuses by government officials, describing his arrest as an "abuse of power". [Life Site, 26 September]

A British Catholic ethics expert has criticised scientists claiming to have found an ethical way to harvest embryonic stem cells. Researchers at the Prince Felipe Research Centre in Spain have said that they are able to harvest living stem cells from dead embryos, thus avoiding deliberately killing embryos for research purposes. Dr Helen Watt, Director of the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics in London said that such an experiment was hard to justify. She said: "There was no intention that any [embryos] survive. To claim that, because some died (or may have died) naturally before they could be killed in research hardly shows that the experiment was justified." [The Universe, 27 September]

A £2 million stem cell research centre is to be built in Scotland. The Roslin Cell Centre, which is to be set up in Edinburgh, has the support of Edinburgh University, the Roslin Institute and the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service. It will provide stem cell lines for research and therapy and, according to a spokesman for Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian, "act as a catalyst for the future development of the stem cell sector." [The Scotsman, 27 September]

A British journalist has written an article debating the value and ethics of making a living will. Joan Bakewell, writing in the Daily Mail, also discussed Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying bill, claiming that it had been defeated by a "highly organised religious lobby among doctors." She wrote: "Lord Joffe has said he will be representing the Bill to Parliament and I predict it will come back again and again before our legislators until some form of assisted dying is finally allowed." [Daily Mail, 26 September]

An American cardinal has criticised embryonic stem cell research and human cloning in a statement marking Respect Life Sunday. Cardinal Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore and chairman of the U.S. Bishop's Committee for Pro-life Activities, said that useful adult stem cell research was often overlooked while the successes of embryonic stem cell research were exaggerated at the cost of human lives. He praised the increasing involvement of young people in pro-life activities. Cardinal Keeler said: "Let us educate and motivate ourselves to ensure that truth - the scientific and medical truth, and the profound truth about the dignity of each human person - will increasingly inform and guide our society's decisions about human life." [Zenit, 26 September]

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