News, 2 August 2005

A study carried out at Scotland's Aberdeen Maternity Hospital suggests that women whose first baby is delivered by Caesarean section are less likely to have another baby than those who give birth naturally. The research, published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, also found that Caesarean mothers are more likely to suffer future complications such as ectopic pregnancy. Further research is being conducted to investigate whether women have difficulty conceiving after undergoing a Caesarean. [The Scottish Herald, 2 August]

The Colombian senator whose court ruling decriminalised assisted suicide throughout the country is calling for a debate over legal regulation of euthanasia. Carlos Gaviria wrote the majority decision in the 1997 case which stated that people can choose to end their lives and that doctors cannot be prosecuted for assisting suicide. However, there is said to be some uncertainty about the legality of assisted suicide and the practice is largely unregulated, meaning that the number of patients dying through assisted suicide is unknown. [Bioedge, 31 July]

The UK's Family Planning Association has claimed that increased contraceptive services and earlier abortions would save the National Health Service £1 billion a year. FPA's research estimated that millions would be saved in maternity services and abortion costs if abortion waiting times were cut so that women could undergo chemical abortion or surgical abortion under local rather than general anaesthetic. [Daily Mail, 31 July] Fiorella Nash commented for SPUC: "The FPA represents a blinkered, doctrinaire approach to pregnancy: their ultimate aim is to ensure that more lives end in abortion at minimal cost. Besides the morally repugnant call for more abortions earlier, the basis of FPA's argument is entirely false. All healthy economies invest in people, particularly the younger generation. Abortion deprives a country of its future."

Healthy women could be asked to donate their eggs for cloning experiments in an attempt to speed up research. This plan is backed by Professor Ian Wilmut, creator of Dolly the sheep, who is seeking permission from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. The issue has divided scientists, some of whom believe that the current low standard of eggs is hindering their research, while others feel that it is unethical to ask women to donate eggs for research as it could introduce a financial incentive. Dr Donald Bruce who heads the Scottish Church's society, religion and technology project said: "Altruistic donation has a strong tradition in medicine, but any inducement to donate, whether it's moral or financial, is something we should be wary of." [The Guardian, 26 July] A spokesman for SPUC said: "Dr Bruce seems to have no sense of the unethical nature of donating sperm or eggs for this kind of research. It is never acceptable, whether for financial gain or through mistaken altruism, to facilitate destructive research using human embryos."

A review published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology suggests that IVF-conceived twins are more likely to have perinatal problems than spontaneously conceived twins. IVF twins are 50% more likely to be born premature, twice as likely to be admitted to intensive care, and 33% more likely to be delivered by caesarean section than spontaneously conceived twins born to mothers of similar age. [Reuters, 27 July]

Adult stem cells could be used to help heart attack victims, according to researchers in Baltimore, Maryland. The aim is to repair injured muscles of the heart using injections of stem cells. Professor Joshua Hare found the treatment was successful on damaged pigs' hearts and the first human study is now underway with 48 heart attack patients participating. [Ananova, 25 July]

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