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Baroness: "Doctors who refuse to help patients kill themselves are wicked"

7 January 2009

A philosopher and parliamentarian who helped set up the framework for Britain's artificial reproduction industry has said that doctors who refuse to help patients kill themselves are wicked. Baroness Warnock told a debate in a church in Northern Ireland that medical staff should ask people when they were well whether they would want suicide if they got very ill. She criticised doctors who allegedly ignored patients' written directives on resuscitation and suicide. She asked: "What is the point of the life at the last stages of Alzheimer's or dementia?" Dr Idris Baker, consultant in palliative medicine in Cardiff, Wales, gave the opposing view. Dr Sidney Lowry, former professor of oncology at Queen's University, said there was no right or wrong. Mr Lindsay Conway, secretary of the Presbyterian Board of Social Witness, said death was for God to decide. Most of those in the audience who voted supported the present law on euthanasia. [News Letter, 6 January] SPUC's national director has expressed fear at Lady Warnock's remarks. SPUC pointed out how, last year, she had said that disabled people had a duty to die early and that Ireland had a moral obligation to allow human embryo research. Her work on artificial reproduction had: "... led to the killing of countless vulnerable human beings in Britain and overseas." Reasonable people would be right to be frightened by her most recent statements. [John Smeaton, 6 January]

A scientist who helped develop hormonal birth control pills has lamented the consequent fall in the birth rate. Mr Carl Djerassi writes in an Austrian newspaper of what he calls an epidemic of small families in that country, mentioning a "demographic catastrophe". Mr Djerassi, 85, cooperated in the 1950s on synthesising the norethisterone progestogen. Couples who had no or few children were selfish, he suggested; Austria was committing suicide. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, said the church had forecast such a decline in births 40 years ago. [Guardian, 7 January] Another report on an article by the president of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations mentions how he claims that hormones from birth control released into the environment are causing a decline in male fertility. [Mail, 6 January] We yesterday described how Dr Pedro José María Simón Castellví writes that such birth control causes early abortion.

President Bush has defended his policies on life issues, describing himself as a defender of the culture of life. He said that all life was precious and "a society is strong when it worries about the most vulnerable". The pro-abortion Alan Guttmacher Institute says there have been fewer abortions under Mr Bush. He has banned partial-birth abortion, stopped funding of abortion overseas (including forced abortion in China) and stopped government funding of new embryo research. Mr Bush allowed the family of Mrs Theresa Schiavo to go to the federal courts over plans to starve her. [LifeNews, 6 January] A Catholic abortion supporter is likely to head the Central Intelligence Agency. President-elect Obama has nominated Mr Leon Panetta who co-sponsored pro-abortion legislation in Congress and supported President Clinton's veto of a ban on partial birth abortion. [LifeSiteNews, 6 January]

The Spanish government's committee on abortion law has been asked to remove disability as grounds for killing the unborn. The Spanish Commission of Representatives of Handicapped Persons said the practice was immoral because it suggested the disabled were worth less than others. [Catholic News Agency, 6 January]

A report in BJOG, an obstetrics and gynaecology journal, suggests ways of cutting maternal mortality in poor countries. Approaches include oral administration of misoprostol to prevent postpartum haemorrhage and simplified caesarean techniques performed by less skilled health workers. Complications in pregnancy reportedly kill more than half a million women every year. Our source lists "unsafe abortion" among such complications. [View London, 7 January]

Home visits to poor expectant mothers can stop them from having under-weight babies, according to research on some 500 women in New York described in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. A scheme sends trained visitors to help women get access to services and to talk about diet, health and stress reduction. Black and Hispanic women particularly benefited. [Reuters, 6 January]

A bacterial infection has hit a neo-natal unit in Birmingham, England, killing one baby and making seven others very ill. The outbreak of serratia at Heartlands Hospital can kill by attacking the lungs. [Mail, 7 January]

Stem cells have been isolated from human testes by researchers in America. Stanford University and UC-San Francisco scientists say the cells cannot differentiate as well as embryo tissue, but say they could be used to treat infertility. [Medical News Today, 6 January]

British scientists are asking for more people to donate their brains after death for research on conditions such as Alzheimer's, autism and dementia. They complain of a shortage of donated brains. [Mail, 7 January]

The former president of the Pontifical Academy for Life is running a pro-life organisation in the diocese of Rome. Bishop Elio Sgreccia's Ut Vitam Habeant Foundation enables experts in bioethics, law and philosophy to help clergy and lay people in educational work. It also gives instruction to engaged couples and will promote caring attitudes for the sick to prevent euthanasia. [LifeSiteNews, 6 January]

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