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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Judicial review sought over human-animal hybrids

10 April 2008

The Lawyers' Christian Fellowship and Comment on Reproductive Ethics are seeking a high court judicial review of the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's licence which let Newcastle university, scientists create animal-human embryos. The fellowship says the authority acted outside the law, which refers only to human embryos, not hybrids. Dr Evan Harris MP, Liberal Democrat, cites legal advice that the hybrids, which have only human DNA in their cell nuclei, are human in terms of current law. [Telegraph, 8 April]

Catholics in Scotland should take into account MPs' stance on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill when they next vote, according to Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh. The cardinal writes that Catholic MPs must be mindful of church teaching on human life. Some Labour MPs have small majorities and the Scottish Nationalist Party is enjoying a surge in support. [Sunday Times, 6 April] The Episcopalian bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, Scotland, claims that the cardinal is wrong about hybrids, saying: " Much as I may not like the thought of hybrid-embryo research ... perhaps that is the way we must go to help those most in need of a Christian, loving response." Professor Sheila McLean, the Scottish medical ethicist, agreed. [Scotsman, 9 April]

An American Supreme Court judge says there is no right to abortion in the US constitution. Speaking at a university in Rhode Island, Mr Antonin Scalia said the constitution was not an adaptable document but left abortion to the democratic process. People with views for or against abortion should persuade their fellow-citizens of the need for a law. [LifeNews, 8 April]

Abortion will be an issue at the Dominican Republic's presidential election next month. The Progressive Bloc parties want the matter raised, and the Catholic church is preparing to resist any change as it successfully did last year. [LifeSiteNews, 5 April]

Most Brazilians oppose abortion, according to a newspaper survey of more than 4,000 people. Folha de São Paulo found that 68% thought abortion should remain a crime, compared with 63% in 2006. Mr José Gomes Temporão, health minister, reportedly supports abortion. [LifeSiteNews, 7 April]

The US Food and Drug Administration is examining whether therapies developed from human embryos are safe. Current hearings in Ohio will consider if treatments cause tumours and whether animal testing of them has been adequate. [Nature, 8 April]

The Google search engine refused to carry anti-abortion advertising and the Christian Institute of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, is suing the company for religious discrimination. Google carries advertisements for abortion providers but says it has a policy against mixing abortion and religion. [Daily Mail, 8 April]

Belgian authorities are threatening parents with prison if they do not have their children vaccinated against polio. Children can be exempted if it is proved that they would suffer side-effects but conscientious objections are not respected. [AP on Rockford Register Star, 12 March] It is unclear whether vaccines used in Belgium are made using unethically obtained substances, especially tissue from aborted babies. Some parents in other countries have objected to polio vaccines on this basis.

A widower is threatening to go on hunger-strike in support of euthanasia. Mr Bill Starr of Nottinghamshire, England, was banned from a nursing home in which his late wife, an Alzheimer's sufferer, was living because he allegedly meant to kill her. [Mansfield Chad, 13 March] A British author who has sold some 55 million books and who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's says he would consider euthanasia. Mr Terry Pratchett, 59, wrote the Discworld series. [Mirror, 14 March]

Ante-natal classes fail to warn women about how painful childbirth is. A review by Newcastle University of research suggests that women are given false hopes about not needing anaesthesia, with many choosing it only once labour had started. The report, published in BMC Medicine, suggests better preparation in classes. [Telegraph, 14 March] Comment: The report may have implications for patients broadly who have made advance refusals of treatment - which can be legally binding under the Mental Capacity Act.

Pregnant patients were among those wrongly sent for x-rays at British state and private hospitals. More than 40 expectant mothers and their unborn children were exposed to radiation because they were ignorant of their pregnancy or did not tell staff about it. [Guardian, 14 March]

Children whose mothers do not smoke in pregnancy are more likely to have a mild temperament say York, England, university researchers. According to the Journal Of Epidemiology and Community Health, 18,000 babies in the UK were studied and those with mothers who had smoked were less serene. [View London, 13 March] Breast-feeding could protect children against type-two diabetes, according to South Carolina university research published in Diabetes Care. [Reuters, 13 March] The University of Western Australia has found stem cells in breast milk. [Natural News, 13 March]

Doctors in India removed an embryo-mass weighing one kilogram from a three-month-old boy's stomach. Our source, which refers to the included tissue as a "one-kilo embryo", says doctors described it as a retroperitoneal dermoid or teratoma, and suggested it resulted from a pluripotent cell becoming entrapped in the (surviving) infant while still in the womb. The 3-month old was said to be in stable condition after the 4-hour operation. [Times of India, 13 March]

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