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Mencap complains of NHS "indifference"

14 March 2007

British charity Mencap has accused the National Health Service of indifference towards patients with learning disabilities after they reported that six patients had been left to die in NHS hospitals through negligence because they were disabled. One case involved a 43-year-old man who could not speak, and died after he was deprived of food for 26 days and became to weak for surgery. Patricia Hewitt the health secretary said she was "shocked" by the report, and immediately agreed to set up an inquiry into the cases and the wider implications. [The Guardian, 12 March] Comment: Paul Tully, SPUC General Secretary, commented: "It is unbelievable that Patricia Hewitt is 'shocked.' She must have been aware of cases like the late David Glass, who had cerebral palsy and whose family intervened to save him from a fatal overdose in hospital. Ms Hewitt's department co-sponsored the Mental Capacity Act 2005, and Mencap supported it. It sanctions the kind of (mal)treatment of patients with compromised mental function that Ms Hewitt and Mencap are now deploring."

A petition calling for euthanasia to be legalised has been signed by more than 2000 French doctors and nurses, according to a Reuters report of a Nouvel Observateur article. The petition reads: "Because disease was certain to defeat medical procedures, because in spite of treatment, physical and psychological suffering had rendered the life of a patient intolerable, we medical staff, have consciously helped patients to die with decency." The petition calls for charges against a doctor and a nurse, Laurence Tramois and Chantal Chanel, accused of killing a cancer patient, to be dropped. Euthanasia has become a major issue among political candidates contesting the forthcoming French elections. [Reuters, 9 March]

A Torbay vicar has criticised the council after it sent out questionnaires to children as young as 12 asking them personal questions about drugs, alcohol and sex. The questions were sent to children without the knowledge of their parents and included questions on whether they knew where to get the morning after pill or had had sex whilst drunk. Rev Tony Macey said: "It was inappropriate to send this out, and inept in the way it was done. There should have been an accompanying letter to parents." Torbay's Director of Children's Services defended the survey. [24dash, 13 March]

The late Cardinal Winning's Pro-Life Initiative has celebrated its 10th anniversary with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow, Scotland. Archbishop Conti explained that the Initiative, which has helped thousands of women facing crisis pregnancies, was born as a result of a speech made by the late Cardinal Winning to the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. [Zenit, 12 March]

The recent temporary awakening of a US patient thought to be in a Persistent Vegetative State has led to calls for more research to be carried out into what is being called a minimally conscious state, according to Lifenews.com. Dr Joseph Fins of the New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center says that there should be a nationwide study of the number of brain-injured patients in hospitals and nursing homes and the severity of their conditions. Dr Kathleen Foley agrees: "Getting those numbers in a countrywide survey is an essential first step for the kind of research that would help us in the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of these severely debilitating conditions," she said. "Without national data, we don't know how many patients are in this situation." [Lifenews.com, 12 March]

A study published in the Internet Journal of Pediatrics and Neonatology has found that women with a past history of abortion are more likely to abuse subsequent children. The study looked at 237 low-income women who had physically abused their children or allowed others to do so and controlled for factors such as family history and previous miscarriage or stillbirth. Priscilla Coleman, a professor of human development and family studies at Bowling Green State University, was the lead author and suggested that grief in particular "may negatively impact parental responsiveness to child needs, trigger anger, which is a common component of grief, and/or increase parental anxiety regarding child well-being." [LifeSiteNews, 13 March]

The US-based National Catholic Bioethics Center has released a statement on physician-assisted suicide at a time when a number of US states are considering legislation similar to Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. It states: "If such proposals become law, there will be a dramatic reversal of the healing role of medicine in society. A medical professional has an obligation always to act in the best interest of the patient, even when the patient's own requests contradict that aim." The NCBC answered the frequently used argument that euthanasia is necessary to avoid unbearable pain. "Today, there is no reason for a patient to seek death as a method to control pain. In fact, most persons who request physician-assisted suicide withdraw that request if their depression and pain are treated." [Catholic News Agency, 12 March]

Eighty Roma women from a town in the Czech Republic have claimed that they were the victims of coercive sterilisation by the health system. One such woman, Elena Gorolova, signed a consent form without knowing what she was agreeing to and only understood that she had been sterilised after the operation had been performed. It is believed that coercive sterilisation was practised by the Communists to curb the traditionally high birth rate among the Romani community, an allegation denied by the Czech embassy in London. [BBC, 12 March]

A baby who survived an abortion and was resuscitated died after hours of suffering, Catholic News Agency reports. The baby was 22-weeks gestation when the abortion took place and was mistakenly thought to have a rare but correctable disability. The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano commented: "life has been thrown out, scorned and ended in the horrible jaws of a culture that rejects any inconvenience rather than facing a path of suffering." [Catholic News Agency, 9 March]

Pro-lifers in Chile are campaigning for human embryos to be granted legal status and to be given decent burial in case of abortion. The campaign began after the bodies of aborted babies were discovered and given a Christian burial but it was noted that there is no legalisation in place that deals with the rights of the embryo or possession of the unborn child after abortion. Activists are planning a march in support of the initiative. [Catholic News Agency, 9 March]

A family planning bill that would have banned families from having more than two children has been defeated in the Philippines. The bill would have included up to six months' imprisonment for couples who broke the family planning law. However, pro-life campaigners are aware that the bill may be resubmitted and have warned of the need for vigilance. [Lifenews.com, 9 March]

An international pro-abortion organisation has released statistics revealing that half of all pregnancies in South Africa end in abortion, more than any other industrialised country. Abortion was legalised in South Africa in 1997 and abortions are performed in 55% of health centres. The abortion organisation Ipas argued at a recent symposium that the government should promote contraception. [Lifenews.com, 9 March]

The US bishops' office for pro-life activities has issued a statement in support of a congressional briefing on egg harvesting called: "Trading on the Female Body." Deirdre McQuade, director of planning and information for the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, stated that if medical treatment were to be derived from IVF or cloning research, it would involve "treating a great many women as egg factories, at great risk to their health and safety. Minority and impoverished women would be particularly vulnerable to exploitation." [Zenit, 9 March]

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