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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Italian president calls for "collective reflection"

12 February 2009

The president of Italy who blocked a move to stop a woman from being starved to death has called for "collective reflection". Mr Giorgio Napolitano vetoed a decree from Mr Silvio Berlusconi, prime minister, to save Eluana Englaro, 38, who died on Monday after her feeding tube had been removed. Parliament was debating a bill on the sustenance of patients when she died. Mr Berlusconi reportedly said: "... Eluana did not die a natural death. She was killed. She died while others discussed the constitutionality of a government bill." Senator Maurizio Gasparri, who said Mr Napolitano had sent Ms Englaro to her death, seemed to be partly retreating from his remark. Mr Beppino Englaro, 70, the woman's father, who fought in the courts for 10 years to have her killed, has asked to be left alone. [Financial Times, 11 February] Mr Englaro reportedly opposes his daughter's being given a Catholic funeral today. [Times, 12 February] The brother of a woman in America whose sustenance was removed in 2005 has expressed his family's grief. Mr Bobby Schindler, brother of the late Mrs Theresa Schiavo, said: "Withholding her food and water - her most basic care - so that she would die, is really about us and how we are going to care for those who need our love and compassion to live." [CNA on EWTN, 10 February] Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the papal council on health care, called for an inquiry into how Ms Englaro died with a view to possible criminal prosecution. [CNA on EWTN, 11 February] The International Federation of Associations of Catholic Doctors says she was killed and suggests that a sedative was used to accelerate her death. Dr Pedro Simón Castellví, federation president, said: "To deny her nourishment and sedate her to the end, when she had no pain, is simply and candidly murder." He said that human beings should never be left without food, adding: "Eluana could breathe, eat, swallow and smile. And now she is longer in the land of the living." He understood her father's suffering. [Catholic News Agency, 11 February]

Abortion raises the risk of subsequent premature birth, according to German research on more than two million pregnancies. Prematurity reportedly increases the risk of cerebral palsy and other health problems. The Reduce Preterm Risk Coalition urged President Obama to stop government funding of abortion because of its dangers to women and children. [LifeSiteNews, 11 February]

An abortion was reportedly due to be performed on a mentally handicapped woman in Argentina who was allegedly raped. The pro-life Servimedia group says the abortion in Santiago del Estero would violate the constitution. [Catholic News Agency, 12 February]

The unmarried and unemployed mother of IVF octuplets in California is appealing on the internet for funds and other gifts. Ms Nadya Suleman has six other children, three of them disabled, and receives state benefits, including around $500 a month for food. The multiple birth last month reportedly cost some $3 million. [Telegraph, 11 February]
The European Union has recognised a new political party which has pro-life objectives. Mr Declan Ganley, leader of Libertas, says there was resistance by the authorities. He did not trust assurances concerning the European Court of Justice's jurisdiction over EU nations' laws relating to ethics. It had been a pro-European action by the Irish people to reject the Lisbon Treaty in a referendum. [CNA on EWTN, 11 February]

The British government is to develop a programme aimed at couples expecting a child, and it will expand its scheme where nurses support "the most vulnerable young first-time mothers". Healthy lives, brighter futures: the strategy for children and young people's health, from the children's and health ministries, also describes a multi-million pound campaign to promote birth control, including long-acting hormonal methods. [Telegraph, 11 February]

Brazil's state-funded national embryo research centre is due to open in July. Based at universities in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, it will supply some 70 laboratories and will train scientists. [SciDev, 11 February] Brazil should "safeguard the unborn from the moment of conception", the Pope has told the country's new ambassador to the Vatican. Combating material poverty had to be accompanied by fighting moral poverty. [Universe, 11 February]

Maternal obesity can make neural tube defects such as spina bifida twice as likely in the unborn, according to an analysis of 39 studies by Newcastle University, England. The research appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus recommended folic acid in pregnancy. [BBC, 11 February]
Doctors should watch for heart-disease in pregnancy, say researchers at Imperial College London, England. Maternal death related to heart disease had doubled in almost two decades. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said screening for heart disease took place routinely. The government said healthier mothers had healthier pregnancies. [BBC, 11 February]

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