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Defending life from the moment of conception

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weekly update, 9 to 17 May

17 May 2007

weekly update, 9 to 17 May Amongst the measures included in the draft Human Tissue and Embryo Bill, published recently by the Department of Health, is permission for scientists to create, under licence, human-animal hybrids for research into serious diseases. Pressure from scientists persuaded ministers not to ban the process as originally intended. Other measures include a prohibition of sex selection of embryos for non-medical reasons, and removing the requirement to consider a child's need for a father when offering IVF. [BBC, 17 May ] SPUC has criticised the government's plans to sanction so-called cytoplasmic hybrids (human clones made with animal ova), and other aspects of the bill. Section 17(2) lists a number of procedures for combining human and animal genetic material, including germ-line genetic manipulation of human embryos and the creation of human-animal chimeras. A bill is to be introduced into parliament next month that would require women considering abortion to undergo counselling and would introduce a 'cooling off' period to prevent pregnant women being rushed into abortion. Mrs Ann Winterton MP of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group stated: "It is really important that people are not bounced into having an abortion because they are in a state of panic without considering the alternatives and without alerting them to possible consequences to their physical and mental health." [Daily Mail, 14 May ] Amnesty International has admitted to changing its policy on abortion and will begin lobbying globally in favour of abortion. The new policy will involve campaigning for the decriminalisation of abortion and promoting abortion in cases such as rape. A senior policy director denied that the policy change had been kept secret, even though it was kept on a members-only webpage with instructions that the change was not to be made public. [LifeSiteNews, 11 May ] Doctors at a Catholic hospital in London are threatening to reject a new code of ethics that will put an end to abortion referrals and the provision of contraception and IVF. Dr Martin Scurr, chairman of the St John and St Elizabeth hospital advisory committee, expected Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor to resign if the new code is rejected and wrote: "The hospital will continue as a non-Catholic hospital, with a Catholic heritage, and a new ethics committee will subsequently be formed which must evolve a code of ethics which is acceptable to the secular cadre of clinicians of the hospital, in alignment with the jurisdiction of the General Medical Council." Restituta, a group campaigning for the hospital to retain its Catholic identity, may take legal action if the hospital refuses to accept the new code of ethics. [Daily Telegraph, 12 May ] A pro-life group that campaigned against the Mental Capacity Act has warned that patients who sign living wills may not be aware that refusing treatment includes the withdrawal of food and fluids. Mrs Elspeth Chowdharay-Best of Alert said: "This is euthanasia and it is not clear enough to people who might be involved. People do not realise that they are condemning themselves to die of thirst." The Act also allows patients to appoint a person with powers of attorney to decide what treatment they should and should not receive, including the provision of nutrition and hydration, should they become incapacitated. [Daily Mail, 14 May ] A Polish mother living in Scotland, who refused treatment for skin cancer for the sake of her unborn child, has died. Anna Radosz had had a malignant melanoma removed but, when she was six months pregnant, she suffered a relapse. When her son was delivered at 36 weeks, the cancer had spread to her lungs. She was hoping to go to America to try a pioneering gene therapy, the funds for which had been given by well-wishers, but died while on a visit to Poland. [Scotsman, 17 May ]

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