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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Obama to reverse ban on federally-funded embryo abuse

9 March 2009

President Obama is expected today to reverse his predecessor's ban on federal funding for destructive research on new human embryonic stem cell lines. After he signs an executive order, Congress is expected to pass a similar measure. Harvard Stem Cell Institute welcomed the move. The work may be funded with money intended to stimulate the US economy. When campaigning, Mr Obama said President Bush had handcuffed scientists. [BBC, 9 March] The Family Research Council calls the move "a slap in the face to Americans who believe in the dignity of all human life." [Guardian, 6 March] Commenting on likely developments America, the Vatican newspaper said human embryo research was deeply immoral. Catholic bishops had warned of the dangers of treating humans as objects of research. [Times of India, 8 March] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, commented: "President Obama's decision comes at a time when researchers have started to conclude that embryonic stem cell research is scientifically flawed and that alternative forms of stem cell research which don't involve embryos are far more successful. Yet he is ready to provide funds for scientists who will create and destroy human embryos with no regard to their human status, their rights and their dignity as fellow members of the human family. By so doing, he reveals himself as a willing tool of a powerful lobby of vested interests among research companies and eugenicist academics. He promised a new approach to policy but embryonic stem cell research is yesterday's bad idea, not tomorrow's future." [SPUC, 9 March]

British police and coroners will not conduct an investigation after a British couple reportedly committed suicide at Dignitas in Switzerland on Friday. Peter and Penny Duff from Bath both had cancer and the Prince of Wales, heir to the throne, sent condolences to the family. [Daily Mail, 7 March]

Doctors in Britain could be prevented from practising if they disobey patients' living wills, according to predictions about draft guidelines to be published by the General Medical Council. Care Not Killing said: "A doctor who treats their patient can now be actively breaking the law." Mr Julian Brazier MP called the Mental Capacity Act pernicious. Living wills can include requests for the withdrawal of food and drink. Ms Nadine Dorries MP said vulnerable and elderly people would be worried by the proposed rule. [Daily Mail, 7 March] Ms Melanie Phillips, the commentator, describes this aspect of the guidelines as potentially forcing medical staff to do harm. People's wants, not necessarily written down, were to be prioritised over their needs. Patients' wishes could change with time and circumstances. [Mail on Sunday, 8 March]

A group run by retired doctors is reportedly advising patients to refuse food and drink in order to commit suicide. A book published by Friends at the End, which also lobbies for assisted suicide, concedes that death by dehydration and starvation is horrific. A Hastened Death by Self-Denial of Food and Drink says patients should resist the urge to rinse their mouths as they dehydrate. [Sunday Times, 8 March]

A hospital in Worcestershire, England, has expressed regret at the death of twins whose lives could have been saved if prenatal scans had been performed. Ms Stella Bate's daughters had twin to twin transfusion syndrome which, if detected, may have been treated. [Halesowen News, 7 March]

The New Zealand government is to shut its bioethics council despite opposition from the Labour party and a former chairman of that body. [Radio New Zealand, 8 March]

The state health service in south Wales is part of a scheme for avoiding obesity in pregnancy. The project involves midwives and a private company. Women are advised on diet and exercise. Obesity can cause complications in pregnancy. [Wales Online, 9 March]

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