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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Pro-life proposals defeated in US election

10 November 2008

Pro-life proposals were defeated at last week's US general election. A measure to extend human rights to the unborn in Colorado received more than half a million votes in favour, but was opposed by roughly three times that many. 55% of South Dakota voters opposed a proposal to ban most abortions. In California, a measure to require parental notification also fell. [Bloomberg, 7 November] Government funding for human embryo research is reportedly a priority for Senator Barack Obama, US president-elect. Our source also mentions Mr Obama's declared intent to fund abortion overseas. [Daily Mail, 10 November] SPUC described the presidential election result as "an incalculable setback for humanity" and expressed concern that the chairman of British parliamentarians' pro-life group had signed a motion supporting Mr Obama. [John Smeaton, 5 November] Citizens of Washington state voted to allow doctors to supply poisonous drugs to patients. Legal and health officials are framing the measure which would become effective on 4 March and could be modelled on Oregon's assisted suicide law. [Seattle Times, 6 November]

The Pope has warned about the removal of organs for transplant from living patients. Benedict XVI told the Pontifical Academy for Life that organ donation was an act of love but it was crucial to be sure that death had taken place. He said: "There must not be the slightest suspicion of arbitrariness. Where certainty cannot be achieved, the principle of [caution] must prevail." Science needed further to refine its methods of ascertaining death. The Vatican newspaper recently questioned whether brain death was the correct criterion or if cardiac death was preferable. The pontiff also expressed concern at abuses resulting from the trade in organs. [Reuters, 7 November]

Controversy continues over the policy on abortion referral at a London Catholic hospital. A spokesperson for Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, says that there will be no "formal" referrals for abortion at the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth. However, Professor Luke Gormally, honorary fellow of the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics, London, says that the cardinal cannot make such an undertaking. He writes: "The Cardinal may wish - as he surely does - that doctors practising at the Hospital do not refer for abortions, but the Code that he has approved clearly does not prohibit them from doing so. It also clearly omits the prohibition in the 2007 Code of the prescribing of contraceptives." [John Smeaton, 10 November]

A German doctor is reportedly promoting assisted suicide through the use of a machine which injects fatal drugs. Dr Roger Kusch is said to have added a patient-operated button to a perfusor and claims that people in Britain have enquired about his services. Dr Peter Saunders of Care Not Killing said: "[Dr Kusch] should be caring for people, not killing them. In my experience, a request for suicide is always a request for help. In my career as a surgeon I only had two requests and both patients changed their minds once we responded to their own particular needs." [Sunday Mercury, 8 November]

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