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Defending life
from conception to natural death


Court dismisses assisted suicide case

19 February 2009

The English appeal court has dismissed the case brought by a woman with multiple sclerosis who intends to commit suicide at Dignitas in Switzerland. Ms Debbie Purdy, 45, from West Yorkshire, has been asking if her husband will be prosecuted for helping her travel. No-one has yet been in trouble for doing so. [BBC, 19 February] SPUC intervened in the case. Paul Tully, general secretary, welcomed the judgment but said: "The judges seem to have shown support for the idea that some (disabled) people are right to want to die. The judgment acknowledges the wrongfulness of giving practical assistance to people who want to die, but asserts that it may be 'inexpedient to take action against relatives for assisting a disabled person's suicide'. The presumption is that the lives of people who are enduring long-term disabilities are of low value, and should not be protected in the same way as other people. If we favour suicide for some individuals who are suffering, we send a message to all those who are sick or disabled that their lives are not worthwhile." [SPUC, 19 February]

The Pope yesterday told the leader of Democrats in the US House of Representatives that Catholic politicians should not support abortion. A statement linked to Benedict XVI's Vatican meeting with Ms Nancy Pelosi, a pro-abortion Catholic, said Catholic legislators had to create "a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development." Politicians should not be influenced by social trends. Ms Pelosi has claimed that there is debate in the church about when life begins, and the American bishops criticised her for doing so. [Reuters, 18 February]

Republican members of the House of Representatives have pledged to try to retain restrictions on abortion despite the wish of the Democrat majority to pass far reaching abortion legislation. Mr John Boehner, party leader, and Mr Thaddeus McCotter, policy committee chairman, wrote to Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the US Catholic bishops' pro-life committee, saying they would work to defeat the Freedom of Choice Act and similar measures. [CNA on EWTN, 18 February] Catholics who are not necessarily politicians are also campaigning against the Freedom of Choice Act. Parishioners of St John Brébeuf church near Chicago have sent almost 5,000 postcards to Illinois' senators and their congressman or woman. The city's archbishop asked all his clergy to preach on abortion. [Medical News Today, 18 February]

The US president has been reminded that abortion is the principal killer of African Americans. Mr Jim Hughes of Campaign Life Coalition, Ontario, was speaking ahead of Mr Obama's visit to Canada today. Mr Hughes said that, while African Americans were 13% of the population, some 37% of aborted babies were black. 17 million such children had died in this way to date. [LifeSiteNews, 18 February]

A Catholic bishop in Scotland has criticised a proposal by a parliamentarian to allow assisted suicide. Rt Rev Joseph Devine, Bishop of Motherwell, opposes Ms Margo MacDonald's measure, saying it could corrupt society by making the sick and disabled think they were a burden. There should be more resources for palliative care. [Bellshill Speaker, 19 February]
Spanish parliamentarians yesterday approved a report on liberalising abortion law. The socialist prime minister is due to give details of the reform, but it is expected to allow abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks' gestation. It is already allowed for disability up to 22 weeks and in other circumstances. [AFP on Yahoo!, 18 February]

Powers of attorney and advance decisions to refuse treatment are described in new treatment guidelines. Advance care planning has just been published in Britain by the Royal College of Physicians and other organisations. [View London, 19 February]

A woman in Italy is to have IVF with sperm taken from her husband who has brain cancer and is in a coma. Dr Severino Antinori is performing the procedure which will be the first time it has been done in that country. Monsignor Elio Sgreccia, former president Pontifical Academy for Life, was quoted as saying: "The consent of both parents is needed for an act of procreation. In this case the husband is treated merely as a receptacle of cells." [AFP on Physorg, 18 February] In related news, a woman in Japan had someone else's embryo implanted instead of her own. She aborted the child and is seeking compensation. [Breaking News, 19 February]

An online pro-life video by a girl aged 12 is said to have been instrumental in stopping an abortion. Someone left a comment to that effect on Lia's YouTube page. [LifeSiteNews, 18 February] The girl appears to be in Canada.

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