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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Mum defies doctors to give birth to healthy baby

10 January 2007

A 48 year-old British woman has defied doctors to give birth safely to a healthy baby boy after unintentionally becoming pregnant. Karen Wellstead was told by medical staff that the baby could develop Down's syndrome and diabetes and that she could suffer kidney failure, lung problems and internal bleeding but despite the risks, she decided to continue the pregnancy. Miss Wellstead said that she could not have an abortion because her first daughter, Jade, who was born with a serious heart condition, died at 14 days old. She said: "When you go though something like that it is difficult to imagine terminating a pregnancy, whatever your age. I couldn't have lost another child. I did think about it because I was worried about the risks to my child and myself but I just couldn't go through with it." [Norwich Evening News, 9 January]

An American scientist who developed a technique for extracting stem cells from amniotic fluid has said that it should not be viewed as an alternative to embryonic stem cell research. Anthony Atala from Wake Forest University, whose study was published this week, wrote in a letter to members of Congress: "Some may be interpreting my research as a substitute for the need to pursue other forms of regenerative medicine therapies, such as those involving embryonic stem cells. I disagree with that assertion." He said that it was "essential that National Institutes of Health-funded researchers are able to fully pursue embryonic stem cell research as a complement to research into other forms of stem cells." [The Guardian, 9 January]

The Vatican has welcomed the new technique for isolating stem cells in amniotic fluid, saying that it is a significant advance in medical progress that does not go against the Church's beliefs. Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, said: "I am very glad to see this progress in the field of science for the good of humankind...The Church is not obscurantist and is always ready to welcome real scientific progress that neither threatens nor manipulates the sources of life." [Reuters, 9 January] A colleague of Anthony Atala, who worked with him on developing the method, has said that he encountered heavy resistance to the publication of his work because it involved extracting stem cells from amniotic fluid rather than embryos. Dr Paolo de Coppi told the Italian ANSA news agency that he had faced "a resistance to the idea of finding an alternative to embryonic stem cells" because many leading American researchers are so heavily invested in embryo research. [Catholic World News, 9 January]

A prominent pro-abortion senator in Uruguay is to send another proposal to the country's parliament to legalise abortion. Senator Margarita Percovich said that she would present it as a matter of human rights rather than a one of health in an attempt to avoid another defeat in the Senate, such as the one it suffered in 2005. Uruguay's president Tavare Vasquez has said that he will veto any legislation that would make abortion legal in the country. [CNA, 9 January] Pro-abortion campaigners are launching a campaign to legalise abortion in Mexico. The Group for Information on Elective Reproduction, which is backed by several feminist organizations, has sent a proposal to the House of Representatives to make permissive laws currently operative in states such as Hidalgo, Yucatan, and Baja California applicable throughout the country. This would legalise abortion throughout Mexico in all circumstances right up to birth. [CNA, 10 January]

An Irish man who formerly worked at a hospice has said that while there, he assisted up to 10 suicides. The 31 year old man from Dublin has been arrested after he claimed that he had helped a number of patients to kill themselves at Our Lady's Hospice in Harold's Cross during 1997-8. The hospice has said that no deaths in this period were suspicious and are co-operating with the police investigation. [Belfast Telegraph, 10 January]

A coroner in Britain has ruled that an elderly woman who died in hospital after food and fluids were withdrawn died of natural causes. Olive Nockels, 91, died at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital after medical staff withdrew hydration. The inquest found that Mrs Nockels did not die of dehydration or starvation, but had suffered from oedema, a build-up of excess fluid in her body. The lawyer for Mrs Nockels's daughter Ivy West, who along with other family members obtained a High Court injunction ordering the treatment to be reinstated, said in a statement: "We are glad that our very real concerns about my mother's treatment have been raised and heard in public. We hope this will give families of stroke victims the confidence to ask for adequate nutrition and hydration for those who have suffered a stroke." [BBC News, 9 January]

The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association (CHPCA) appears to have abandoned its opposition to euthanasia after issuing a neutral draft statement on the issue. The draft uses language similar to that of pro-euthanasia lobbyists, as it says that while the organization "does not view euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide as a part of quality end of life care... [A] small number of Canadians may still choose to have control over their own death. As hospice palliative care practitioners, we will respect their right to choose and will not abandon them." Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of Canada's Euthanasia Prevention Coalition expressed dismay. He said: "The CHPCA has changed its language to the preferred language of the Right to Die lobby...This statement is a direct threat to our most vulnerable members of society, who even question the value and dignity of their own life." [Life Site, 9 January]

A fertility clinic in Oxford has become the first in Britain to gain a licence to carry out a cheaper form of IVF. The unit at the John Radcliffe Hospital is now able to carry out in-vitro maturation (IVM), a method in which immature eggs are grown outside the body, reducing the need for hormonal injections. At £1700, the treatment is roughly half the cost of conventional procedures and reduces the likelihood of possible fatal side effects. [The Guardian, 10 January]
Catholic bishops in Switzerland are asking their government to account for the use of and fate of frozen embryos. The bioethics commission of the Swiss episcopal conference reported that there were gaps in official statistics since 2001 and called upon the federal office to provide the lacking information. [Zenit, 9 January]

Christian doctors in America have criticised a Texas IVF clinic that offers "designer babies" to prospective parents. The Christian Medical Association (CMA) spoke out against the Abraham Centre of Life, in San Antonio, which advertises made-to-order embryos screened for hair and eye colour, intelligence, and other characteristics or a fee of about $10,000. Dr. David Stevens, head of the CMA, said: "By stressing the educational level of sperm and egg donors, this centre is preying on parents who have fallen victim to the false notion that babies are a status symbol, and that intelligence, race or appearance are somehow measures of worth. Do we really want to grade babies like meat in a supermarket?" [Life Site, 9 January]

A Catholic hospital operator in Australia is accused of campaigning against an IVF clinic located in a hospital the operator has recently taken over. The Canberra Fertility Centre (CFC) is located in the John James hospital, which was bought in October by the Catholic operator, Little Company of Mary Health Care. CFC medical director Martyn Stafford-Bell claimed that since the change in management, several services provided for it by the hospital had been withdrawn. Little Company of Mary Health Care is quoted saying that the IVF service was not under its control, but also that it had sought to ensure the service continued. [Daily Telegraph (Australia), 9 January]

A baby born extremely prematurely in Britain is progressing well. Doctors at the University Hospital of Wales gave Kaven Gainey only a 5% chance of survival when he was born at 23 weeks gestation, weighing only 1lb 6oz. However, after two operations and five months in hospital, Kaven was well enough to go home with his parents. His mother Victoria Simmonds said: "When I look back now I don't know how we got through it, but obviously we had to. We had to keep going because Kaven was obviously fighting for survival." [BBC News, 9 January]

Pro-family campaigners in Spain have urged the government to take action on the country's drastic decline in birth rates and increase in abortions. Eduardo Hertfelder, the president of the Institute For Family Policy in Spain, called for a National Plan of Support for Childbirth, including increased public and private aid and the creation of health care centres for pregnant women, as well as increased tax breaks for families with children. [CNA, 8 January]

A new test has been developed which could save hundreds of unborn children dying from pre-eclampsia every year, according to British scientists. Researchers led by Professor Thomas W. Rademacher at University College London found that the presence of a certain protein may act as an early warning sign that women will go on to develop pre-eclampsia, a condition caused by a defect in the placenta that leads to high blood pressure and kidney problems for the mothers. [Daily Mail, 8 January]

The Pope has criticised increasingly worldwide abortion and human cloning in an address to diplomats. Speaking to members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, Benedict XVI analyzed the most important events of the last year including terrorism, migration, poverty and fair trade. He said: "How can we not be alarmed, moreover, by the continuous attacks on life, from conception to natural death? Such attacks do not even spare regions with a traditional culture of respecting life, such as Africa, where there is an attempt to trivialize abortion surreptitiously...Other forms of attack on life are sometimes committed in the name of scientific research. There is a growing conviction that research is subject only to the laws that it chooses for itself and that it is limited only by its own possibilities. This is the case, for example, in attempts to legitimize human cloning for supposedly therapeutic ends." [ETWN, 8 January] The Pope has also said in a homily that life is a gift from God. He was baptising 13 newborn babies from different countries in the Sistine Chapel on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. [EWTN, 7 January]

An American nurse, who was demoted for refusing to distribute abortifacient birth control, is instigating legal action against the hospital where she works. Toni Lemly, who has worked as a nurse for 23 years, refused to administer the Plan B morning after pill as part of a family planning program initiated at St. Tammany Parish Hospital in Louisiana. She was subsequently demoted from full time to part time status and lost a significant amount of salary. [Life Site, 8 January]

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