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Defending life
from conception to natural death


weekly update, 12 to 17 September

17 September 2007

weekly update, 12 to 17 September The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has responded to the US bishops on the withholding and withdrawing of food and water from patients who can assimilate food and fluids but are in a so-called 'permanent vegetative state' ('persistent non-responsive state'). The congregation's responses, approved by the Pope, clarify Church teaching that "the administration of food and water (whether by natural or artificial means) to a patient in a "vegetative state" [is] morally obligatory." Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, commented: "The Vatican's statement is highly significant for the whole world but especially for England and Wales, where new legislation is now coming into force that runs directly contrary to the statement's principles. The Mental Capacity Act allows and in some cases requires food and water to be denied to mentally incapacitated, non-dying persons. This will place conscientious healthworkers in a serious dilemma. They may be forced to choose between continuing to feed patients and participating in a regime of starvation and dehydration. If they follow their conscience they may face disciplinary action, dismissal or even criminal prosecution." [SPUC, 18 September ] The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has called Britain a "broken society," and said: "The nation generally is getting more unhappy about the high level of abortion in this country. People are not happy about abortion as a back-stop to contraception. It's not like having a tooth out." This statement comes after claims that the majority of women are opposed to attempts to liberalise the abortion law. [Daily Mail, 15 September ] Catholic bishops in Scotland have urged MPs to vote against plans to allow human-animal hybrid embryos for research. The bishops said: "Human beings are unique and distinct from all other creatures. Our natural distaste at the prospect of mixing species reflects a natural intuition that a moral boundary is being crossed. We are appalled and shocked by this horrific prospect." [Scotsman, 13 September ] President Bush has withheld funding from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for the sixth year running because it continues to support forced abortions and sterilisations. Mr Bush's decision was based on research by the Population Research Institute between 1998 and 2001, which found that there were violations in UNFPA's work in several countries including China, Peru and Pakistan. [CNA on EWTN, 13 September ] The US delegation to the United Nations has rebuked the executive director of UNFPA for claiming that there was a UN global goal related to "sexual and reproductive health". While presenting UNFPA's strategic plan and its proposed global and regional programs, Ms Thoraya Obaid referred to "the target on universal access to reproductive health under Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5." The US representative told her there was no global target on reproductive health and that only a resolution of the General Assembly could generate one. Ms Obaid later claimed that UNFPA held a neutral position on the legalisation and promotion of abortion. [Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, 13 September ] The British government is to fund a scheme in which women who donate their eggs for research are to be offered cut-price fertility treatment. A course of IVF costs around £1,500 of which the Medical Research Council will pay half in return for half the eggs that are produced. Josephine Quintavalle of Comment on Reproductive Ethics said: "This is exploitation of those who will be enticed into taking part because of financial inducements. It's sheer hypocrisy when the [Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority] says no money should exchange hands for fertility treatment. It also creates the circumstances where the tendency would be to over-stimulate women to produce more eggs, when targeted treatment using less stimulation is becoming the gold standard." [Daily Mail, 12 September ]

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