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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Eugenic ideas are still a threat, warns pro-life academy president

18 February 2009

Euphemistic language and advertising are being used to try to make eugenics acceptable, according to the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Most Rev Rino Fisichella was speaking yesterday ahead of The new frontiers of genetics and the risk of eugenics, a congress hosted by the academy at the Vatican on Friday and Saturday. He said genetic research was ethical if used to heal or ease suffering, but science had to respect human dignity. [Catholic News Service, 17 February] Mgr Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, the academy's chancellor, said the human genome project was a great undertaking but ethics had to be borne in mind. Dr Bruno Dallapiccola, professor of genetic medicine at La Sapienza University, Rome, warned that doctors could be reduced to interpreters of genetic data from machines. [Independent Catholic News, 18 February] Archbishop Fisichella also said that food and water were not medical treatment but a basic human need. This belief was shared by "thousands of doctors and scientists". The prelate's comments evoked the death nine days ago in north-eastern Italy of Ms Eluana Englaro, 38, after tube-feeding was withdrawn. [ADN Kronos, 17 February]

An Italian priest who works with the long-term ill in Paraguay has returned a state honour because of the way his country treated Ms Englaro. Father Aldo Trento, 62, of the fraternity of St Charles Borromeo, Asunción, only received his knighthood of the Order of the Star of Solidarity from President Giorgio Napolitano last year. He says the president "permitted the death of Eluana in the name of the Italian Republic ...". Mr Napolitano vetoed the prime minister's decree which could have saved her. [Zenit on EWTN, 16 February] Last year, Fr Lucien Larré of British Columbia sent back his Order of Canada after the same honour was awarded to Dr Henry Morgentaler who promoted abortion. [CBC, 4 July] A professor of legal philosophy says that, in Ms Englaro's case, judges have usurped legislators. Dr Paolo Becchi, who teaches at universities in Italy and Switzerland, warns of "judicial imperialism". [LifeSiteNews, 17 February]

Mr Barack Obama's initial actions as president are undermining respect for humanity, according to the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations. The federation lamented his resumption of funding for abortion overseas and his support for the UN population fund, as well as his appointment of abortion supporters to key posts. It was particularly concerned that the president did not seem to support conscientious objection by medical staff. [Zenit, 17 February] Funding for human embryo research would be a form of discrimination says Fr Tadeusz Pacholczyk of the National Catholic Bioethics Center. There were plenty of ethical alternatives. [Catholic News Agency, 17 February] Delegates to the American Association for the Advancement of Science's conference in Chicago were said to be pleased with the new president, who is expected to allow federal funding for research on new human embryo lines. [Times, 14 February]

A young man of 17 who was treated for a genetic disease with foetal cells has developed benign tumours in the brain and spine. The spinal growth seems to have come from the transplanted cells, according to tests done in Israel. He received three courses of treatment in Russia for his ataxia telangiectasia. Our source also mentions concerns that stem cells could also transmit disease. Comment on Reproductive Ethics, in Britain, said: "These are not areas of therapy we should be rushing into, whatever the ethical debates surrounding the use of embryo or foetal tissue per se." Dr Stephen Minger of King's College London also expressed concern. [BBC, 18 February]

Skin cells have been used to produce heart muscle which beats. The Circulation Research journal reports that the University of Wisconsin-Madison grew functioning cardiomyocytes using induced pluripotent stem cells from skin. The tissue could help with research into treating heart disease. [Science Daily, 13 February]

Support is growing among Irish voters for the European Union's Lisbon treaty. A majority now supports it, according to an opinion poll. [Irish Independent, 16 February] There has been some concern that the treaty could put Irish abortion law under the jurisdiction of a European human rights court. The government is said to have negotiated opt-outs.
A bill whose title mentions the "right to die with dignity" is to be presented to the Canadian parliament. Ms Francine Lalonde MP of the Bloc Québecois is trying for the third time to introduce a measure which is likely to legalise assisted suicide. The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of London, Ontario, said: "To legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide represents the right of one person to take the life of another person. Our society should not be going there." [LifeSiteNews, 17 February]

Pregnant ethnic minority women born outside the UK but living there need to be screened for tuberculosis, says the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the light of a University of Oxford, England, survey of all UK births in 2005 and 2006. Symptoms of the disease can reportedly be different in pregnancy. The National Public Health Service for Wales says cases are at an eight-year high. [View London, 18 February]

An expectant mother in England was sent 30 miles to a labour ward because neither of Leicester's big hospitals could take her. The un-named woman had to go to Kettering, Northamptonshire. [PA on Channel 4, 16 February]

A newspaper has published a feature on twins in South Australia who are supposedly unlikely to get cancer after preimplantation screening during IVF. Phoebe and Montanna Quinn, aged two years, have a family history of the disease. [Sun, 17 February]

Vehicle fumes in pregnancy could raise the risk of asthma in infants because of genetic changes before birth. University of Cincinnati researchers studied umbilical blood from 56 children and announce their findings in the PLoS ONE journal. The British Lung Foundation thought that pollution might cause asthma but did not suspect that it could do so genetically. [BBC, 15 February]

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