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Scottish government opposes proposed assisted suicide law

3 November 2008

The Scottish government opposes a parliamentarian's proposal to bring in a law next year which would legalise assisted suicide. Ms Nicola Sturgeon MSP, health minister, says it would not be possible to have "sufficient safeguards" but she welcomes the debate begun by Ms Margo MacDonald, independent MSP for Lothians, who has Parkinson's disease. Ms MacDonald says it is inhumane not to have such a law. [Herald, 2 November] A disabled person has warned of eugenic activities resulting from the legalisation of assisted suicide. Dr Alison Morton-Cooper of Dumfries and Galloway says disabled people are "socially negated" and that their suffering could be alleviated if others tried to understand their difficulties. People's fears of becoming disabled played a part in support for such policies. She concludes: "However bad my disability gets, I want to be living when I die, and that depends on the rest of you being enlightened and prepared enough to take that on board." [Herald, 3 November]

The Bishop of Cleveland, Ohio, has told Catholic voters that the church's opposition to abortion is "essential and foundational and can never be compromised." Rt Rev Richard Lennon's statement which was distributed at Mass yesterday said that each human life had inestimable value. [Cleveland.com, 2 November] Ohio is a key state in the election.

It is suggested that a law which Senator Barack Obama would sign if elected president could lead to the closure of Catholic hospitals. The Freedom of Choice Act would make abortion a right and Mr Michael Moses, the American Catholic bishops' lawyer, says it would not allow conscientious objection. Every medical facility would have to provide abortion, making it impossible for Catholic hospitals to function. Catholic Family News said clergy should warn people about this. [LifeNews, 2 November]

Immodest television programmes could encourage teenage pregnancy, according to the results of a three-year study in the US by the Rand corporation. Those who watched the most sexually explicit shows were twice as likely to get pregnant as those who watched very few such programmes. The researchers want producers to show more of the consequences of sexual relationships. Living with two parents reduced the risk of teenage pregnancy. The results are published in the Pediatrics journal. [Reuters, 3 November]

A unionist politician publicly thanked God that British abortion law was not extended to Northern Ireland during the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Mrs Iris Robinson MP MLA, chairman of the provincial assembly's health committee, told the Democratic Unionist Party's conference: "It is Christian truth that the sanctity of innocent life should be preserved." [Irish Times, 3 November]

If an expectant mother consumes too much caffeine, her child could be underweight at birth. A British government agency is expected this week to suggest that pregnant women should drink no more than two cups of coffee a day. University researchers recorded 2,500 pregnant women's caffeine intake and found those consuming more than 200mg a day had smaller babies. The study is to be published in the British Medical Journal. Research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology suggested that excess caffeine also increased the risk of miscarriage. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends complete abstention from caffeine in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. [Sunday Times, 2 November]

Gaining more than 18 kg in pregnancy almost doubles the risk of having a baby weighing more than four kilograms. Kaiser Permanente of Oregon surveyed more than 40,000 women in America for research described in Obstetrics & Gynecology. One fifth of women gained too much weight; large babies are hard to deliver. [Reuters, 31 October]

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