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Assisted suicide happening on the NHS

25 March 2009

Patients' deaths are being hastened in the British state health service. Research by Queen Mary University, London, published in the Palliative Medicine journal suggests that some 2,500 people are killed with drugs annually. A survey suggests that a third of doctors approve of assisted suicide (or at least letting people go abroad for it). The Christian Medical Fellowship did not want the law changed; medics needed training in caring for the dying. Dignity in Dying, the pro-euthanasia group, claimed the study showed that the UK needed a law that allows people to be killed by euthanasia and assisted suicide. Ms Sarah Wootton said it should have safeguards. [Daily Mail, 25 March] Paul Tully of SPUC commented: "In fact, the evidence from the Netherlands shows that, even with safeguards, around 900 patients a year are being killed by doctors without request or consent, besides those who volunteer for death. In Oregon too, the safeguards are ineffectual, with massive under-reporting putting patients at risk. In order to truly safeguard patients what is needed in the UK is wider understanding of the pain control available, and the rewriting of recent pro-euthanasia legislation and protocols to make clear that intentional killing is not acceptable. The 2005 Mental Capacity Act made it legal for doctors to kill incapacitated patients deliberately, and medical guidance on withholding treatment says that patients can be killed by starvation and dehydration. It is no wonder that cases like the deaths of six disabled people highlighted by Mencap have been blamed on discrimination. That is what the BMA guidance and recent legislation - for all their safeguards - encourage."

There was not time in the British House of Commons on Monday for debate on a measure to exempt from prosecution people who take others overseas to kill themselves. [Telegraph, 23 March] SPUC's Anthony Ozmic said: "We are calling upon our supporters to be ready to lobby members of the House of Lords, as one or more amendments to weaken the ban on assisted suicide may be tabled to the Coroners and Justice bill when it is debated in the Lords in the coming weeks."

Children in England aged 11 will be able to request morning-after pills from nurses by short message service texts. Schools are involved in the scheme in Oxfordshire. The opposition Conservative party said morning-after pills were only for emergencies. Family and Youth Concern said the move would not cut teenage pregnancy. Rev John Saward of SS Gregory and Augustine Catholic church, Oxford, said it was horrendous and would encourage promiscuity. [Daily Mail, 25 March]

Powerful groups want to legalise abortion in Peru, according to a Catholic prelate. Most Rev José Antonio Eguren, Archbishop of Piura and Tumbes and chairman of the bishops' committee on life, warned a congregation that ideologically and economically motivated forces were at work. He said that was an embryo once, thus emphasising human dignity. [Catholic News Agency, 24 March]

The American Catholic bishops have reminded the government's health department that Congress has passed plenty of statutes which allow medical institutions and individuals to opt out of unethical procedures. The Obama administration is reportedly considering revoking President Bush's re-statement of those measures. If the government's policy was based on choice, the bishops' representatives say, it should let healthcare providers choose not to perform abortions. [Catholic News Service, 23 March]
The US teenage pregnancy rate has risen for two years running. The White House said it was troubled, and some campaigners called for an end to state funding for abstinence-based education programmes. [Irish Times, 24 March]

Mr Barack Obama, labelled by Congressman Christopher Smith as the 'abortion president', is to visit a Catholic university. He will give an address and receive an honorary degree from Notre Dame University, Indiana, which has received many complaints. [LifeSiteNews, 23 March] Rev John Jenkins, university president, defended the decision and said he hoped to engage with Mr Obama on life issues. [Catholic News Agency on EWTN, 24 March] Rt Rev John D'Arcy, the local bishop, will boycott the event and has asked the institution to reconsider. [LifeSiteNews, 24 March] More than 110,000 signatures have been added to an online petition against the visit. [LifeSiteNews, 24 March]

Pro-life campaigners in more than 50 parts of Britain will next month give silent witness to the millions of unborn babies killed in the 41 years since the implementation of the Abortion Act, as well as to the hurt caused to women by abortion. SPUC supporters will hold placards which bring home the reality of abortion. The Prolife Chains are being mentioned in local media. [Oldham Evening Chronicle, 20 March, and North Devon Gazette, 19 March]

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