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Defending life from the moment of conception

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HFEA announces public consultation into hybrid embryos

15 January 2007

The HFEA has announced a public consultation over whether scientists should be allowed to create hybrid human-animal embryos. The Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority (HFEA) said it would not rule on any research applications until the consultation is completed in the Autumn. The decision comes after ministers proposed outlawing the mixing of human and animal cells to create embryos after critical public opinion. Two UK teams want permission to carry out the controversial research in an attempt to find cures to conditions such as Alzheimer's. Dr Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat MP, is co-ordinating the support for human-animal embryos and said such research was widely supported. [BBC Online, 11 January] But the Church of Scotland said it was an ethical line "not too be crossed". A spokesperson said: "It is hard to see what respect is being shown in creating an embryo, purely to extract cells from it, which is both a hybrid of human and animal, and which is thereby so disrupted that it could never be viable." [Christian, 12 January]
Britain's most successful test-tube baby clinic is the subject of regulatory action after it was secretly filmed offering potentially risky treatment to women. The BBC's Panorama programme revealed several inconsistencies at London's Assisted Reproductive and Gynaecology Centre, including an undercover reporter being offered extensive IVF treatment despite neither she nor her partner having any history of fertility problems. Mohamed Taranissi, who runs the centre, is also accused of treating patients at a second, unlicensed clinic. The HFEA said the regulatory action was as a result of their own investigations. [BBC Online, 15 January]

A bill backing embryonic stem cell research is likely to be vetoed by President Bush. The stem cell bill was passed last week in the US House of Representatives but fell shy of a two-thirds majority needed to overcome a veto. Mr Bush says such research would destroy human life in the name of science. [BBC Online, 11 January] The Illinois Federation for Right to Life said embryonic stem cells "have yet to cure one person." [EWTN News, 12 January]

Tens of thousands of UK Catholics now have ID cards telling doctors not to withhold liquid from them if they become ill. The card, produced by the Association of Catholic Women, reads: "In case of my admission to hospital, please contact a Roman Catholic priest. I would like my nursing care to include fluids - however administered." The production of the card follows fears about an increased acceptance of euthanasia. [The Observer, 14 January]

A new company in Texas is offering embryos for sale in a package deal from around £5,000. Calling itself the world's "first human embryo bank", The Abraham Center of Life is offering couples and single women the chance to browse detailed information sheets about the genetic characteristics of the egg and sperm donors before ordering an embryo. Jennalee Ryan, a mother of six, runs the company from her home in San Antonio. She said the first two women to use the service are five months pregnant. Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE) said she was horrified and described it as a move towards "supermarket babies". [The Times, 11 January]

Girls as young as 11 are being offered the morning-after pill from two Lambeth secondary schools in a bid to cut teenage pregnancy. Lambeth council is piloting a project at Stockwell Park School and the Park Centre in West Norwood as part of the scheme already in force at other schools around the country. The clinics will also offer emergency contraception to students as well as advice on sexual matters. [IC South London, 12 January]

The blind Chinese human rights activist who exposed violations to China's one child Policy has lost his final appeal against a conviction for damaging property and disrupting traffic. Chen Guangcheng was jailed in 2006 for four years and three months after he accused local health workers of illegally forcing hundreds of people to have late-term abortions and sterilisations. The decision is being seen as an example of China's refusal to tolerate dissent. [BBC Online, 12 January]

Catholic-controlled hospitals in Australia are refusing to supply the morning-after pill to rape victims. Catholic Health Australia's Code of Ethical Standards states that raped women should not be referred to centres offering the morning-after pill because of they are abortifacient. But a rape crisis counsellor has joined the argument by saying that all hospitals should be forced to offer rape victims the morning-after pill. Karen Willis, from the NSW Rape Crisis Centre, said: "If you're going to be providing a service then, ethically not morally, you must provide the full range of services available within those parameters." [The, 11 January]

Tens of thousands of Catholic teens and young adults from across America will rally close to the White House this weekend to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade which legalised abortion in the US. More than 20,000 youngsters are expected to fill Washington, D.C.'s largest sports arena for the annual Rally for Life and Youth Mass. Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington will be joined by dozens of bishops and hundreds of priests for the event. [Catholic News Agency, 10 January]

The Pope has told senior Italian politicians that there is an urgent need for them to enact policies to protect and serve the family. Benedict XVI stressed that "the Church and Catholic organisations are happy to offer their help, in the light of the great principles of the sacredness of human life from conception to natural end, and of the central importance of sick people." [Catholic News Agency, 11 January]

Medics in Irish hospitals are intentionally slowing down in their efforts to resuscitate some terminally ill patients who suffer a heart attack, a new study claims. A forthcoming article by Jacinta Kelly, lecturer in nursing and midwifery, in Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing says that doctors and nurses are afraid of litigation but also anxious to spare terminally ill patients traumatic cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) procedure. [The Times, 14 January]

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