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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Italian woman reportedly killed by removal of feeding tube

10 February 2009

A woman in Italy has reportedly been killed by removing her feeding tube, while the senate was debating a law to save her. Ms Eluana Englaro, 38, died yesterday in a clinic in Friuli that had volunteered to cause her death which the courts had approved. Mr Silvio Berlusconi, prime minister, could not get legislation through parliament in time; President Giorgio Napolitano previously blocked a decree which could have prevented Ms Englaro's killing. She was in a vehicle accident 17 years ago and her artificial feeding was stopped on Friday after a 10-year campaign by her father. Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers, hoped that: "The Lord would receive [Ms Englaro] and pardon whoever has brought her to this point." The government said it would continue to seek a measure to stop killing by withdrawal of sustenance. [Guardian, 9 February] The Vatican press office hoped her case: "will be a motive for serene reflection and a responsible search for the best way to accompany the weakest, with love and careful attention, with the due respect for the right to life." The Italian bishops expressed sadness and urged a renewed fight in defence of life. [Zenit, 9 February] Most recently, the prime minister has said the president was partly responsible for Ms Englaro's death. [Daily Mail, 10 February] The health minister says the law on the end of life must be urgently agreed. [BBC, 10 February]

Cloned human embryos are defective and therefore of no use to research, according to research by US based scientists. In their Reprogramming of human somatic cells using human and animal oocytes, Dr Young Chung of Advanced Cell Technology, Massachusetts, and colleagues also report that animal-human hybrids are defective too. Dr James Sherley, senior scientist at Boston Biomedical Research Institute, Massachusetts, is highlighting both of the report's conclusions, and points out how proponents of the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act were last year arguing for a liberalisation of the law. He adds "We the people must also not overlook the human tragedy of the Chung study. It reports the in vitro conception of 49 cloned human embryos and 135 animal-human hybrid embryos. Though even honorable scientific experts might debate the humanity of the 135, there is no doubt that 49 human beings died senselessly and avoidably for this research, which yielded what was already known with a high degree of certainty." [John Smeaton, 9 February]

Two thirds of British family doctors oppose the provision of abortion drugs by their surgeries. One third would not work in a practice which did so. Research for GP newspaper found that more than half of respondents expected the provision of such substances by local surgeries would mean more abortions. Three quarters support the present requirement for two doctors to approve an abortion. [Press Association on Google, 10 February] SPUC's national director commented: "There is a lot of support in the community for pro-life values - and opposition to abortion - and we must keep up the fight, not least by reaching out to doctors and nurses with our campaigns, and keeping up the pressure on our politicians." [John Smeaton, 10 February]

Heart disease sufferers in Britain could soon be treated with their own bone marrow cells, which would be induced in the laboratory to become heart tissue. King's College Hospital, London, hopes to perform trials within a year. It is claimed the technique could even make heart transplants unnecessary. [Telegraph, 9 February]

Breast cancer in pregnancy can go undiagnosed and untreated, say Texas University scientists. Delays in treatment can reduce women's survival rates. Pregnancy can mask symptoms and medics lack awareness of the disease. The team, writing in the Cancer journal, want better diagnosis using ultrasound or mammography. [Reuters, 10 February]

Applying electricity to embryos could marginally improve IVF success rates for couples where the man has a low sperm count. The Egyptian IVF-ET Center, Cairo, found that short bursts of current increased the laboratory fertilisation rate, according to last month's Fertility and Sterility journal [Reuters on Yahoo!, 9 February] Increasing IVF success rates would scarcely dent the massive death toll caused by discarding unwanted human embryos.

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