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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Italian woman at risk of euthanasia by starvation

3 February 2009

A semi-conscious woman in Italy has been moved from a clinic where staff refused to starve her to a facility which reportedly will. Demonstrators tried to obstruct the ambulance taking Ms Eluana Englaro, 37, from Lombardy to the Friuli-Venezia Giulia province in the middle of the night. She was in a car accident 17 years ago and her father has fought for 10 years to have her killed by neglect. The Catholic church is opposing the removal of her feeding tube. [Times of India, 3 February] The nation's health minister has reportedly told staff to continue sustenance for patients. [AP on Yahoo!, 1 February] Human Life International, Rome, says Ms Englaro's death would lead to more such killings in Italy. Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro said Mr Beppo Englaro, her father, would be legally responsible for her death. He added: "We are not fighting for Eluana's life because she has limited signs of consciousness but because of her dignity as a human being." [John Smeaton, 3 February]

A woman who had primary progressive multiple sclerosis is in the English appeal court today and tomorrow to try to get an assurance that her husband will not be prosecuted if he takes her abroad to commit suicide. Ms Debbie Purdy, 45, of West Yorkshire reportedly claims the law is unclear. [(Bradford) Telegraph and Argus, 2 February] SPUC is intervening in the case. Paul Tully, general secretary, said: "We have great sympathy for Mrs Purdy because of her medical condition, but her legal case is misguided and dangerous. If we favour suicide for individuals who are suffering, we send a message to all those who are sick or disabled that their lives are not worthwhile." SPUC welcomed legal arguments in the matter from the Director of Public Prosecutions. [SPUC, 3 February] A leading Catholic prelate has said that the way Ms Englaro was treated would reflect the condition of western civilisation. Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna, mentioned her case during a homily in his cathedral for the national day for life. She was a "'sign of contradiction' between a culture of death and a culture of life." [Zenit on EWTN, 2 February]

Human-animal embryos do not seem to be viable, according to research by Advanced Cell Technology of Massachusetts reported on in the Cloning and Stem Cells journal. The company's scientists tried crossing cows, mice and rabbits with people but, while the resulting beings underwent cell division, they eventually perished. Researchers say their work, involving hundreds of experiments, does suggest that human cloning could be feasible. [Reuters, 3 February]

Premature births are said to cost the British state health service an extra £939 million a year, says an article about Oxford University research in the Pediatrics journal. Each early birth can cost £20,000 more than a full-term one. Older and overweight women are reportedly more likely to give birth prematurely and the number of such deliveries is increasing, partly also because of fertility treatment. The National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit said it was important to prevent preterm birth. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists wants mothers to be encouraged to improve their lifestyles. [Times, 2 February]

A pregnant woman in Argentina has been given a liver transplant at five months' gestation, and it saved her life and her child's. Ms Martha Pecarrere had hepatitis and was in a coma while expecting Sofia, her daughter. The procedure was carried out last month and staff at Austral Hospital near Buenos Aires said it was only the fifth time ever that both mother and child had survived a transplant. [Daily Mail, 2 February]

A woman who had an abortion 27 years ago has told of her subsequent "guilt, shame and depression". Ms Lynelle Stahlhut of Bettendorf, Iowa, writes on a newspaper's website: "Keeping abortion legal does not make it a safe option. Legal abortion allows it to be available to more women and gives it the appearance of being OK. More women are likely to be harmed physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually." She had been healed of the trauma by Christ and adds: "Legal or illegal abortion harms women." [Quad-City Times, 1 February]

Vitamin D deficiency in expectant mothers increases the likelihood of caesarean section fourfold and also adds to the risk of pre-eclampsia. A lack of the nutrient could cause muscle weakness says a Health Research Forum report in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. [Mail, 3 February]

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