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Defending life from the moment of conception

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British TV to broadcast Dignitas suicide

10 December 2008

British television will tonight show an American man with motor neurone disease committing suicide at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland. Mr Craig Ewert, 59, who lived in North Yorkshire, England, drinks barbiturates prescribed by a doctor and is dead in 30 minutes. [Sky, 10 December] Mrs Mary Ewert says her husband, a father-of-two, cooperated with the film makers to raise the issue's public profile. Mr Ewert feared death by paralysis and suffocation. [Telegraph, 10 December] Anthony Ozimic of SPUC said: "Focusing on one case will have a disproportionate effect on the debate on assisted suicide, skewing viewer's perceptions. Many people, including patients themselves, don't know that palliative care is highly successful in alleviating the symptoms of motor neurone disease. Craig Ewert's fears about his quality of life and the effect on his family could have been properly addressed with correct medical advice and full personal support. We fear the documentary will obscure the broader issues of how allowing assisted suicide devalues human life and endangers the vulnerable." [SPUC, 10 December] The Pro-Life Alliance warned that people could imitate what they saw. Right to Life, asked: "What kind of effect do they imagine [the programme] is going to have on a depressive?" The Sky Real Lives channel says it wants to stimulate debate. [Telegraph, 10 December] Mr John Zaritsky, the film's director, said it would have been less than honest not to show Mr Ewert's death. [Telegraph, 10 December] The government has suggested that the communications regulator should determine whether the programme conforms to rules on portraying suicide. [Telegraph, 10 December]

The parents of a 23-year-old British man who died at Dignitas are not to be charged with assisting him because prosecutors say doing so is not in the public interest. Mr Daniel James was paralysed playing rugby, though the injury was reportedly not fatal. A criminal investigation was launched against Mr and Mrs Mark James, who paid for the suicide and accompanied Mr James. The director of public prosecutions said the case was tragic and that the couple had begged their son, who had attempted suicide, not to kill himself. A Dignitas psychiatrist at the Zurich clinic said the deceased had been competent to make the decision. [Telegraph, 9 December]

A mother in England may have last week killed her 31-year-old daughter who had myalgic encephalopathy (ME) for more than half her life. Mrs Kay Gilderdale, 54, has been quoted as saying: "If [we] didn't believe, that one day she would get better then I don't think it would be right for her to go on suffering like this ..." She also described Lynn Gilderdale as being between life and death. Mrs Gilderdale was arrested and is on bail while Sussex police investigate. [Times, 9 December]

The Church of Scotland is alarmed at plans to legalise assisted suicide in the country. Ms Margo MacDonald MSP on Tuesday launched a consultation on the proposal. The head of the kirk's church and society council writes: "... every life matters, even when someone struggles to believe their life matters." If people gave up hope, then church and society had to help them rediscover the will to live. [Herald, 10 December]

Pharmacists in parts of London, England, will next year supply women and girls over 16 with hormonal contraceptive pills without a prescription. The scheme could be extended beyond Lewisham and Southwark. The Family Education Trust said there was no evidence that increased access to contraception cut teenage conception or abortion rates. The UK Faculty of Public Health said more contraception did reduce teenage pregnancy. [BBC, 10 December] SPUC deplored the initiative. Paul Tully, general secretary, said: "Previous pilot schemes, which promoted the morning-after pill through pharmacies claimed success because making them free increased the uptake. The trials, however, were not shown to have decreased pregnancy or abortion rates. Nor did they bother to monitor the effect on sexually transmitted infections. Sexually transmitted infections may have been made worse, since the rampant increase in sex disease may be partly due to greater reliance on morning-after pills." The plan promoted the silent abortion of some early embryos. [SPUC, 10 December]
Another study has proved the existence of post-abortion syndrome. The University of Navarre, Spain, found that four-fifths of women who have an abortion get depression-symptoms and two-fifths consider suicide. In the year following an abortion maternal mortality is higher than among women who give birth. The risk of suicide is increased. [Catholic News Agency, 9 December] Johns Hopkins University, Maryland, has defended its report which denies post-abortion syndrome. Dr Robert Blum said LifeNews had made personal attacks on him but conceded that his team had been selective with the research it chose to promote. They began with 700 studies yet reviewed just 21 in depth. [LifeNews, 9 December]
A Canadian abortion advocate has joined Mr Tony Blair's Faith Foundation to promote the Millennium Development Goals. When she was an MP, Ms Belinda Stronach said women's groups should only receive government funding if they were pro-abortion. She will also be associated with the Faith Acts Fellowship which works with the InterFaith Youth Core which, in turn, receives funding from pro-abortion foundations. [John Smeaton, 10 December]

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