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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Embryonic stem cell 'cures' could cause cancer

8 January 2009

Human embryo cells which, when analysed, appear as though they could provide therapies could actually be about to become cancerous, according to an article in Nature describing research at McMaster University, Ontario, and the University of Southern California. Adult stem cells have already provided many therapies. Mr Wesley Smith, the bioethicist, pointed out that scientists had been struggling unsuccessfully with the problem of embryo tissue for almost 10 years. Umbilical blood cells could be tissue-typed more easily than bone marrow. President-elect Obama may allow state funding of embryo research. [LifeNews, 7 January]

At least a third of Caesarean sections in the US are performed too early, endangering the children involved. Alabama university research on more than 13,000 births described in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that such deliveries are twice as risky at 37 weeks' gestation than at 39. Mothers apparently pressure doctors to deliver babies. One problem with early delivery is breathing difficulties. Complications also arise after 41 weeks. [Reuters, 7 January]

Catholic bishops in Spain would take part in pro-life demonstrations if the government carries on trying to liberalise the abortion law. Rt Rev Juan Antonio Martínez Camino SJ, auxiliary in Madrid, said excommunication applied not just to women who had abortions but also to those who directly collaborated. Abortion was not a right; lawmakers had to help expectant mothers. [Catholic News Agency, 7 January]

The Church of Scotland has responded to an accusation that Christianity is not involved in dialogue on bioethical matters. A spokesman writes that the church has produced many reports and made submissions to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). The statement was a response to assertions by the authority's chairman. The church had worked on such issues for some 40 years; these matters were not the sole preserve of the Catholic church. [Scotsman, 8 January]

A Japanese counselling organisation expects an increase in the number of suicide-related telephone calls. Inochi No Denwa gets 700,000 calls a year and is concerned that the financial crisis will make more people want to kill themselves. The country's government has banned websites that describe suicide techniques. [Telegraph, 8 January]
The body which regulates doctors in the UK has produced webpages about ethical issues. The General Medical Council's site has case studies and our source describes one where a doctor has to decide whether to defy the wishes of the parents of a seven-year-old and tell him he has cancer. Conscientious objection is listed among the topics. [Birmingham Post, 8 January] Pages with case studies seem to be password-protected.

Neanderthal man is on a list of extinct creatures which a scientific magazine says might one day be cloned. New Scientist says: "It is hard to imagine even the most crazed of mad scientists entering such taboo territory." [Mail, 7 January]

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