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Protection of Conscience Project

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July-September, 2004

September

30 September, 2004
First 'wrongful birth' case in Singapore

A 47 year old woman is suing her obstetrician because he did not recommend prenatal screening tests and the woman gave birth to a boy with Down's Syndrome. The defence argues that the woman first saw her doctor when it was already too late to have a legal abortion in Singapore.[Borneo Bulletin, 30 September]

29 September, 2004
Objecting pharmacist faces disciplinary hearing

On 11 October Wisconsin pharmacist Neil Noesen will face a disciplinary hearing for refusing to dispense oral contraceptives because of his religious convictions. Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin is actively opposing freedom of conscience among health care professionals in the state. [Police used to intimidate objecting pharmacist]

New Hampshire pharmacist criticized for not referring patient

A Laconia, New Hamphsire pharmacist who refused to fill a prescription for the potentially abortifacient morning after pill was the subject of a complaint to Foster's Sunday Citizen, a local newspaper. Pharmacist Todd Sklencar suggested that she try another pharmacy but did not identify a specific location. The woman returned to the drive-in counter with her father but was again refused. An internet query discloses the addresses and directions to four different pharmacies within two and a half miles of Laconia, including the pharmacy where Sklencar was working, so the woman's second visit to the pharmacy and complaint to the media seems to have been a deliberate attempt to embarrass or coerce the objector rather than a desperate effort to obtain a necessary medical service.

28 September, 2004
Genetic disease to be produce in cloned embryos

Professor Ian Wilmut of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute, has applied for permission to clone human embryos from the cells of Motor Neuron Disease patients so that the embryos can be used in researching the disease. They will then be destroyed. [BBC]

27 September, 2004
Continued pressure for euthanasia on Guernsey

Although a Guernsey committee rejected legalization of euthanasia, Health Minister Peter Roffey wrote a minority report in favour of it, and a local politician has called for a referendum on the issue. Among their opponents are a Guernsey physician, Dr. Susan Wilson, and Cindy Kennedy of Channel Islands Right to Life [BBC, 21 September, 23 September] [The Guernsey Press, 27 September]

International Palliative Care Conference

The Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care will hold an international conference on palliative care for the terminally ill to take place in Rome on November 11-13. The conference will examine the Christian understanding of suffering, pain control and the pastoral, spiritual and psychological needs of patients facing death, and will include inter-religious dialogue with representatives of Hinduism, Islam, Judaeism and Buddhism. http://www.healthpastoral.org/events/index.html

23 September, 2004
Abortion bill proposed in Poland

A debate on a bill that would allow abortion on demand up to the 12th week of gestation has been delayed for a month. The bill was proposed by Poland's Democratic Left Alliance, and, absent some kind of protection for conscientious objectors, would likely have an adverse impact on freedom of conscience in health care [Warsaw Business Journal, 22 September].

21 September, 2004
Professor claims doctors assist with suicide or euthanasia of 20,000 annually

Dr Hazel Biggs, Director of medical law at Kent University, used date from other countries to assert that about 20,000 terminally ill patients are 'helped to die' by their doctors each year in the United Kingdom. Her claims were made before a House of Lords committee studying a euthanasia bill [The Scotsman, 20 September] and are considered questionable by the bill's opponents. [Catholic Communications Service, 21 September]15 September, 2004

Catholic hospitals inducing premature labour for handicapped infants

Reports in Our Sunday Visitor revealed that two Catholic hospitals induce will labour at about 23-26 weeks in the case of infants suffering from birth defects that would result in death soon after a full term birth.
Anencephaly and renal agenesis (underdeveloped kidneys and lungs) are the most common diagnoses that lead to the procedure. Neither condition normally presents a health risk to the mother, though the practice s being defended on grounds that the mother's "mental health" is at risk. The report states that the babies are "made comfortable" until death, and may die in their mothers' arms. The reports have generated considerable controversy within the Catholic community because of the similarity of the procedure to 'genetic terminations', in which labour is induced in the case of severely handicapped infants, who are then left to die [Loyola Confident, Others Troubled] [When Birth Means Death]. They illustrate that health care workers in denominational institutions may face conflicts of conscience, which can be exacerbated by the fact that their difference may be with their own denominational authorities.

14 September, 2004
Euthanasia debate in Netherlands, Spain and UK

The British Medical Journal reports that Dutch paediatricians want deaths of babies born with severe multiple handicaps reported to a committee of doctors and lawyers rather than the coroner's office. Research suggests that about 80 disabled infants die each year as the result of the withholding of treatment, while about 20 are killed by lethal injection.[BMJ, 11 September]

A Spanish film about the suicide of a tetraplegic sailor has added fuel to the euthanasia debate in Spain. The Sea Inside is a Spanish movie about sailor Ramon Sampedro, who killed himself by drinking potassium cyanide after an unsuccessful right-to-die campaign. He had been paralysed from the neck down. Prime Minister Zapatero described the film as "a hymn to life" because it defended "the freedom to die." The emotional appeal of such films can generate calls to legalize procedures that will pose conflicts of conscience for health care workers.

Professor John Harris of Manchester University, speaking in favour of Lord Joffe's euthanasia bill before a House of Lords Committee, claimed that no one he knew would object to a policeman killing a man trapped in a burning vehicle who asked to be shot. He did not explain what position he would take with respect to a policeman who refused to obey an order to shoot a man in that situation.

10 September, 2004
Wrongful birth lawsuit launched in California

The parents of a learning-disable girl who is paralyzed from the legs down are suing their obstetrician, claiming that they were deprived of the opportunity to abort her because they were not told about prenatal tests that could have detected spina bifida. The threat of such lawsuits has become a means to coerce physicians who object to eugenic practices for reasons of conscience.

Accommodation for late term abortions

Canadian women from Ontario and Quebec are sent to the United States for late term abortions because there are not enough doctors in Canada willing to perform the procedure. The abortions are paid for by the provincial health plans. The practice illustrates how demand for controversial medical procedures can be accommodated without suppressing freedom of conscience among health care workers. [CBC]

UK Mental Capacity Bill opposed

The Mental Capacity Bill, which critics assert would effectively legalize euthanasia for incompetent patients, has attracted protests from Dr Helen Watt of the Linacre Centre, Dr Nigel Cameron of the Centre for Bioethics and Public Policy, Dr. David Jones, senior lecturer in bioethics at St Mary's University College, Surrey [The Guardian, 7 September], Francis Bennion, author of Professional Ethics: the Consultant Professions and their Code, and Laurence Oates, the Official Solicitor who represents the mentally incapacitated [The Times of London, 8 September]. The director of Changing Perspectives, a disability rights organization, has also spoke out against the bill. [The Guardian, 10 September]

9 September, 2004
Protection of conscience clause survives U.S. House

In July, congressmen Dave Weldon (R-FL) and Henry Hyde (R-IL) introduced an amendment to a bill funding the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services to protect heath care providers and professionals who refuse to "provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortion." The amendment would prohibit federal funds from being paid to any government agency that discriminated against such persons or entities. The bill now faces a House-Senate conference committee.

Belgian bill would legalize euthanasia for children

Moving in advance of the Netherland, where euthanasia protocols for children have not yet been publicly disclosed, two members of the ruling Flemish Liberal Party have introduced a bill that would extend the legalization of euthanasia to children and teenagers, as well as permitting physician assisted suicide.

Gym teacher settles lawsuit

In 2002, Catholic gym teacher Gerard C. O'Brien launched a civil action against the Springfield Education Association, Massachusetts Teachers Association and National Education Association for demanding that he pay fees to unions that support abortion and birth control. He had twice been suspended for refusing to pay the fees. Although not a member of the unions, he was required by the contract to pay union dues because he benefits from their collective bargaining agreements. The compromise will see his fees paid to a mutually agreed upon charity, and ensures that he will be compensated for lost wages and some of his legal fees. [The Republican]

Lord Joffe's bill and Mental Capacity Bill in the news again

Britain's Royal College of Nursing has announced that, following consultation with its members, it objects to the legalization of assisted suicide and 'active' euthanasia as contrary to "the core principles which lie at the heart of nursing." The College specifically opposed Lord Joffe's euthanasia bill, now before a committee of the House of Lords.[RCN news, 6 September] Britain's Voluntary Euthanasia Society, preparing for testimony on the bill, asserted that of 790 adults polled, 82% wanted the law changed, 47% would help a suffering family member to obtain euthanasia, and 51%, would seek euthanasia if suffering unbearably. The results of the poll are sharply contested by Campaign Against Euthanasia because of the wording of the questions. What can be safely said is that the contrast between the poll results and the position of the Royal College of Nursing clearly demonstrates that legalization of the procedure would cause significant and widespread conflicts of conscience within the medical profession.

7 September, 2004
Dutch Propose euthanasia for children under 12

Clinicians at a university clinic in Groningen and Dutch judicial authorities have developed a protocol for extending euthanasia to children under 12 years old. Current law allows euthanasia for teenagers, parental consent being required for teens under 16. The proposal has been condemned by the vice-president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Bishop Elio Sgreccia.

Euthanasia controversy continues in Britain

A joint statement from the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and the Archbishop of Westminster, Cormac Cardinal Murphy O'Connor, opposes a private member's euthanasia bill by Lord Joffe, 'Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill'. The statement follows a letter to The Times of London from 750 Catholic priests in the United Kingdom who oppose the Mental Capacity Bill on the grounds that it would legalize euthanasia by omission. Joffe's bill is now before a House of Lords committee and is also opposed by the British Medical Association, Help the Aged, the Disability Rights Commission and Disability Awareness in Action. The Mental Capacity Bill is at second reading in the House of Commons.

On the other hand, the UK's Voluntary Euthanasia Society has sent the House of Lords a petition with 80,000 signatures supporting euthanasia, and claims that half of the repsondents in a survey would be willing to leave the country for assisted suicide if they were terminally ill. Meanwhile, The Guardian newspaper featured the Swiss assisted suicide organization, Dignitas, which is reported to have assisted 22 British citizens to commit suicide since 1998. [The Guardian, 2 September]

3 September, 2004
Sex selection popular in Australia

An IVF clinic in Sydney, Australia, is reported to be doing about 200 sex selections annually at a cost of up to $13,000.00. Using IVF to select the sex of infants continues to be ethically controversial. [Bioedge, 3 September]

1 September, 2004
State may order withdrawal of wards' life support without consent

The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that the state has the power to order the withdrawal of life support from incompetent wards, even against the objections of a guardian ad litem. The case involved a mildly retarded 54 year old black man who was placed on a ventilator after suffering cardiac arrest. He died of natural causes while the case was in litigation.

August

31 August, 2004
French committee recommends 'passive' euthanasia

A French parliamentary committee has recommended that terminally ill patients should be able to request that doctors "leave them to die", and that family members of unconscious patients be permitted to give such direction. While the report calls this "passive euthanasia" it is not clear whether 'allowing the patient to die' means withholding extraordinary treatment, ordinary treatment, withholding nutrition and hydration. The first would not pose problems for most conscientious objectors.

30 August, 2004
French government plans to legalize euthanasia

French Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy plans to propose the legalization of euthanasia by the end of the year. He characterized the new law as instituting "the right to die with dignity." Legalization of euthanasia would have a profound impact on health care workers who object to it for reasons of conscience. [News item]

24 August, 2004
Planned Parenthood urges complaints against conscientious objectors

Planned Parenthood Alberta is accusing physicians who are conscientious objectors to abortion of professional misconduct, claiming that they may "scare" patients with "misinformation" or "impose their moral beliefs." The organization plans to compile a list of "anti-choice" physicians, and suggests that patients report doctors to the province's regulatory authority if they do not provide information on "all options" for their pregnancies, including abortion. [Project news release] [Project response]

Nurse in South Africa persecuted for refusal to assist with abortions

A registered nurse (called "nursing sisters" in South Africa) who refuses to assist with abortions has not been allowed to work in an operating room theatre since 2 May, 2004, according to a Doctors for Life International. The organization has filed a legal brief in support of Sister Wilhelmien Charles in a suit against the Kopanong hospital and South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. Sister Charles is a senior nurse who has been working at the hospital since 1997. Three years later, when the hospital began to provide abortions, many staff members signed a petition to the effect that they did not want to do abortions. The hospital stonewalled attempts at correspondence by DFL. A spokesman for the regional health department claimed said that he was unaware of the case and claimed that no one is forced to perform abortions. [News item]

23 August, 2004
Siblings dispute provision of nutrition and hydration for mother; court sanctions withdrawal

89 year old Doris Smith of Louisiana will no longer receive assisted nutrition or hydration because two of her children and her doctors have ordered it stopped. Smith was incapacitated by a stroke. The Louisiana Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the order by one of her other children on the grounds that the decision conformed to the "living will" that Smith had signed. The problem is that the will included a waiver of her right to "life-sustaining procedures", and this has been interpreted to included food and water. A number of health care workers called upon to implement such directions may object to the practice for reasons of conscience, since they understand that deliberately causing death by dehydration and starvation is euthanasia. [News item]

22 August, 2004
'Right' to caesarean section claimed

A controversy about the increasing number of caesarean sections in the United Kingdom has led the The National Institute for Clinical Excellence to issue a statement that women should have the right to a caesarean section even if two doctors disagree. One if five births in the United Kingdom is by caesarean section. Caesarean sections are not normally morally controversial, since most health care workers do not object to the procedure for reasons of conscience. However, in a particular case, a health care worker who is convinced that the procedure will harm the mother and/or child might decline to be involved. In any case, the notion that a patient has a 'right' to a surgical procedure, even when the attending physician disagrees, could have implications for freedom of conscience. [The Guardian, 22 August, 2004]

20 August, 2004
US medical personnel accused of complicity in abuse of Iraqi prisoners

The Pentagon has denied allegations in an article published in The Lancet that US military medical staff were involved in the notorious abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad, and have also been complicit in similar abuses in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The allegations were made by Dr. Steven H. Miles, a professor in the center for bioethics at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Among other things, he claims that a physician and psychiatrist helped plan and monitor the abusive interrogations at Abu Ghraib, that medical records were falsified and that health care workers failed to report what was taking place. [CNN]

19 August, 2004
South African Parliament amends abortion law

Despite what is reported to be significant opposition to abortion among South Africans, the South African Parliament passed an amendment to the country's abortion law to allow abortions to be performed by registered nurses (called "nursing sisters" or "sisters" in South Africa). The amendment will also allow abortions to be performed in more health care facilities. The Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) and Doctors for Life have voiced concerns that conscientious objectors to abortion will be pressured to participate in the procedure. The bishops called upon Catholic health care workers to "insist on their constitutional rights, respecting their freedom of conscience and to refuse to cooperate in the performance of abortions." [SACBC nrews release] [Doctors for Life news release]

'Brain dead' child recovers

A child who was without a heartbeat for 25 minutes and was in a coma for 12 days following an accident is now recovering. Mason Forbes began breathing on his own after his life support was cut off following a diagnosis of 'brain death'. He can now laugh, smile, and sit, and doctors are optimistic that he will eventually be able to walk. The case illustrates why health care workers may experience conflicts of conscience when required to terminate life support or assisted nutrition and hydration [The Daily Express, 19 August, 2004].

11 August, 2004
Human cloning to begin in UK

Newcastle university will use cell nuclear replacement to clone embryos in order to obtain embryonic stem cells to treat Alzheimer's, diabetes and Parkinson's disease. Permission for human cloning was given by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) [BBC, 11 August, 2004].

9 August, 2004
Abortifacient drugs to be more widely used in the UK

Following lobbying by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, abortifacient drugs will be made more readily available to women in the United Kingdom for abortions within nine weeks of conception. The first of the two drugs used is to be administered by a physician, while the second, which induces expulsion of what is supposed to be a dead fetus, is to be taken by the woman at home two days later. BPAS argued that the arrangement will be more economical. Its chief executive, said that it would "give women more control over their own abortions." [The Sun, 9 August] In addition, there are plans to give the abortifacient drugs to Irish women who go to Britain from the Republic for abortions. They would take the second pill after returning home.[The Sunday Times, 8 August]

One unexamined problem with the scheme is that women experiencing complications, including incomplete abortions, will likely present at hospital emergency rooms to have the abortions completed. There is likely to be a conflict if a conscientious objector is faced with a woman who is carrying a living fetus but who wants an incomplete chemical abortion completed surgically. The problem has become a significant issue in South Africa, and would be particularly serious in Ireland, where most Obstetricians and Gynaecologists will not perform abortions for reasons of conscience [Conscientious Objection in Ireland (May, 2000)].

4 August, 2004
South Africans fear bill will be used to force nurses to assist with abortions

Proposed amendments to South Africa's abortion law will permit any health facility with a 24-hour maternity service to perform abortions up to 12 weeks gestation and allow abortions to be performed by registered nurses, traditionally called "nursing sisters" or "sisters" in South Africa. The Christian View Network, Human Life International, Pro-Life South Africa and the Evangelical Alliance are lobbying for a protection of conscience clause because they fear that health care workers will eventually be deprived of their freedom to avoid participation in abortion. Problems have already arisen for conscientious objectors, either because they have had to deal with abortions started by a previous shift, or abortions started by physicians outside the hospital who have prescribed abortifacient drugs and told their patients to go to emergency rooms deal with complications. [Independent On Line] [Doctors for Life news release]

Opposition to Mental Capacity Bill in UK

Disability Awareness in Action (DAA), the National Centre for Independent Living and The British Council of Disabled People have formed a coalition to oppose the government's Mental Capacity Bill. They are concerned that the bill will allow family members to force sterilization, withdraw medical treatment, including nutrition and hydration. The concerns are shared by many conscientious objectors in health care professions. [Disability Now , 4 August].

3 August, 2004
Alabama public health ordered to rescind policy

A policy of mandatory distribution of the potentially abortificacient morning-after pill will be withdrawn by public health authorities. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson has acknowledged that the current law does not support the policy. It has been reported that the implementation of the policy resulted in the forced resignation of at least 11 nurses, and led 50 employees asked for reassignment. [Catholic World News. 2 August]

South African physicians concerned that new law jeopardizes freedom of conscience

An amendment to the South African abortion law is being opposed by physicians because it will impose pressure on conscientious objectors in hospitals "designated" to provide abortions. [News release] [See also Are State Doctors in the Western Cape willing to implement the Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1996? An opinion survey conducted in the Western Cape in November 1997.]

Terminal sedation in Netherlands associated to death by starvation, dehydration

According to Dutch researchers, terminal sedation, a procedure intended to render a patient in intractable pain unconscious, is being used in the Netherlands in conjunction with withdrawal of food and fluids in order to cause the death of a patient. They estimate that four to 10 percent of patient deaths are caused in this way. The researchers from the Erasmus Medical Centre and the Free University Medical Centre in Amsterdam also reported that about 44% of patient deaths in the country are the result of a 'medical decision', such as assisted suicide or refusal or withdrawal of treatment. [Expatica, 3 August]

July

30 July, 2004
General Medical Council may appeal ruling

Britain's High Court accepted the arguments of Leslie Burke, who suffers from a degenerative brain condition, that present GMC guidelines that allow doctors to withdraw food and fluids from patients contravene the European Convention on Human Rights. The BBC reports that the GMC will either have to appeal, or redraft its guidelines to incorporate a presumption that a patient wants to live. [BBC, 30 July] Withdrawal of food and fluids from patients who are not dying or near death is a morally controversial issue for some health care professionals.

Euthanasia bill in preparation for Scotland

Jeremy Purvis, a member of the Scotland's parliament, is reported to be drafting a bill to legalize euthanasia in Scotland. He argues that the bill is simply a "natural progression" from rules that now permit withdrawal of treatment. [Sunday Herald, 1 August]

29 July, 2004
Pharmacist attacked for exercising freedom of conscience

Pharmacist Steve Mosher, who owns the only private pharmacy in Fabens, Texas, refuses to dispense contraceptive pills because of concern that they may have an abortifacient mechanism. Planned Parenthood in El Paso attacked Mosher because he would not fill a prescription for a "legal product" and was creating a "barrier" for women in Fabens. Mosher will dispense birth control pills when they are prescribed for reasons other than contraception. [El Paso Times]

28 July, 2004
Lack of conscience clause cited as concern in Mental Capacity Bill

James Bogle, a London lawyer, has pointed out that the Mental Capacity Bill permits non-medical proxies to force doctors to withdraw or withhold treatment or nutrition in order to end a patient's life, with no provision for conscientious objection by physicians. [The Telegraph, 28 July]

27 July, 2004
Diagnosis cited as reason not to treat infant

The North West Wales NHS representing a Bangor, North Wales Hospital has postponed a request that the High Court decide whether or not it is obliged to treat a six month old infant diagnosed with Edwards Syndrome. It appears that, since most infants suffering from the syndrome die within a year of birth, the Trust was of the view that there was no point in treating him. The child has been at the hospital for four months. News reports do not indicate that the child was near death. His mother opposed to application. [BBC, 27 July]

25 July, 2004
Royal College of Nursing to reconsider euthanasia

Euthanasia supporters have convinced the Royal College of Nursing to reconsider its opposition to euthanasia. The chair of the RCN's ethics committee supported Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying bill last year. [Sunday Herald, 25 July, 2004] Conscientious objectors among nurses will be significantly affected should the College begin to support euthanasia. [See Assisted Suicide: What Role for Nurses? ]

23 July, 2004
Audiotapes available from Conflict and Conscience in Health Care

The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity is making available tapes of its summer conference on freedom of conscience issues. [Full Conference] [Plenary Sessions only]

22 July, 2004
First international conference on ethics, science, and moral philosophy of assisted human reproduction

The Royal Society of London is hosting conference from September 30th to October 1st, 2004. Among the planned presentations:

  • Procreative Liberty : Scope and Limits of Reproductive Freedom;
  • When Does Life Begin: The Moral Status of the Human Embryo;
  • Designer Babies: Choosing Our Genes, Changing Our Future;
  • Why We Are Morally Obliged to Genetically Enhance Our Children;
  • The Ethics of Human Reproductive Cloning; ES Cell Research and the Moral Status of Human Embryos;
  • Gay Science: Choosing Our Children's Sexual Orientation;
  • Preconception Gender Selection: Choosing Our Children's Sex;
  • Preventing the Existence of People with Disabilities;
  • Godless Morality: Keeping Religion Out of Ethics.
21 July, 2004
Embryos to be conceived as tissue donors

The United Kingdom's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has approved the conception of embryos with a view to selecting one to provide stem cells for a two year old boy in Northern Ireland. Embryos not selected for this use will presumably be frozen, used for research or destroyed. Production of embryos for tissue donation has already taken place in the United States and Australia.

Controversy about MAP in Northern Ireland

The Family Planning Association is angry that only two of fifteen hospital emergency departments in Northern Ireland dispense the potentially abortifacient morning after pill. A third will dispense the pill only to girls under 18 years old, and some doctors refuse to prescribe the drug for reasons of conscience. It is possible that attempts will be made to force conscientious objectors to dispense the drug, despite the fact that it is widely available from physicians, clinics and can be purchased over the counter at pharmacies. [BBC]

$60,000.00 damages for birth of child

A woman whose child survived an attempted abortion has been awarded $60,000.00 for stress and loss of income by the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Canada. The court refused to award money for the raising of the child. After the failed abortion, Prince George regional hospital offered the woman money for a partial-birth abortion in the United States, but she declined. The case differs somewhat from other wrongful birth cases because the child is not handicapped. In this respect, it is a precedent that concerns those performing abortions rather than conscientious objectors.

19 July, 2004
Controversy continues re: Mental Capacity Bill

The Catholic bishops' conference of England & Wales stated that there are grounds to believe that the draft Mental Capacity Bill is inconsistent with the teaching of Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life). An archbishop speaking for the conference noted that opponents of the bill "many reasonable fears". While the conference does not believe that the bill introduces permission for euthanasia, other critics insist that the bill will legalize euthanasia by neglect. [CBCEW, July 2004] [SPUC media release, 19 July, 2004] [See Warning sounded about Mental Incapacity Bill]

17 July, 2004
Only half of Dutch euthanasia cases are reported

Research indicates that only half of about 3,500 cases of euthanasia that occur each year in the Netherlands are reported as required by law. The Dutch health minister wants to be able to discipline doctors who ignore 'procedural' guidelines, since the public prosecution service concerns itself only with those who disregard 'material' guidelines. Health care institutions are being urged to appoint euthanasia consultants and establish guidelines for the procedure [British Medical Journal]. Increased expectation of participation in the procedure is likely to cause problems for conscientious objectors.

15 July, 2004
Warning sounded about Mental Incapacity Bill

National People First, the British Council of Disabled People, Disability Awareness, and the Guild of Catholic Doctors are among the critics of the United Kingdom's Mental Incapacity Bill. The Guild is concerned that the definition of 'euthanasia' does not include euthanasia by omission, and that the bill will lead to euthanasia: first, by withdrawal of food and fluids, and later, by lethal injection [Guild commentary]. Passage of the bill would have serious implications for conscientious objectors.

Protection of conscience amendment added to bill

A committee of the US House of Representatives has added a provision to a spending bill that will prohibit the use of funds authorized by the bill by any federal, state or local agency that discriminate against institutions that do not provide or refer for abortions.

14 July, 2004
Blonde hair and blue eyes required

Those who normally do not object to artificial reproductive technology may, nonetheless, encounter cases in which they may experience a conflict of conscience. This is illustrated by the case of Helen McCrave, a woman in the United Kingdom whose IVF treatment will be delayed for an indeterminate period because she does not have blonde hair and blue eyes. The conditions for treatment include a requirement that she donate some of her eggs to the IVF facility, but the current demand is for eggs from blonde, blue-eyed donors.[This is Plymouth, 14 July]

12 July, 2004
Nicaraguan concerns about abortion

Arguments being made in favour of legalizing abortion in Nicaragua have been criticized by the Nicaraguan Catholic bishops' conference. The country has a pro-life constitution. Legalization of the procedure would have a profound impact on health care workers who object to abortion.

9 July, 2004
Canadian Pharmacists Association queried by Catholic bishops

The Canadian Pharmacists Association has been asked by the Canadian Organization for Life and Family to ensure that pharmacists disclose to patients the fact that the morning-after pill can cause the death of the early embryo by preventing implantation. COLF, which addresses life issues for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, also asked the Association about its policy on freedom of conscience for pharmacists who do not wish to dispense the morning-after pill. [COLF letter]

Belgium: 400 cases of euthanasia

400 cases of euthanasia have been reported in Belgium since the procedure was legalized two years ago. Questions have been raised about the accuracy of the figure, while some claim that the number represents only the disclosure of euthanasia that would have happened illegally. [Expatica ]

6 July, 2004
Chilean court rules against morning-after pill

Judge Silvia Papa of the Chilean Federal Court has ordered the withdrawal of all drugs containing Levonorgestrel, the key hormone in the morning-after pill. The judge ruled that the pill can prevent implantation of the early embryo, thus acting as an abortifacient. Abortifacient drugs are illegal in Chile. The Ministry of Health has been attempting to force Chilean mayors to distribute the drug, sparking opposition from authorities in the Catholic Church. The controversy suggests that legalization of the drug would create conflicts of conscience among some health care workers and others ordered to distribute it.

British Medical Association: abortion survivors should not be neglected

BMA guidelines require that infants who survive abortions should receive the same care and treatment as other infants, but it appears that the guidelines have not been followed in a number of cases. The Sunday Times reported upon six cases in which babies who survived abortions were denied medical treatment until they died. One midwife stated that there was an 'unwritten rule' that abortion survivors were not to be resuscitated. In one case, the child lived for three days [The Sunday Times, 20 June, 2004] . 65% of the delegates at the BMA's annual conference in Llandudno, Wales, reinforced the guidelines by voting in favour of equal care and treatment for infants surviving the procedure [Daily Post]. That 45% of the delegates were in favour of causing the death of the infants by neglect may be taken as an indicator of support for infanticide in these cases. It also provides an explanation for the existence of the practice. Similar problems were reported at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary, Alberta [Nurses At Foothills Hospital Rebel Over The Horrifying Results Of Late-Term 'Genetic Terminations']. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta eventually responded by approving the lethal injection of infants in utero prior to late term abortions to ensure that none are born alive.

Statistics in the United Kingdom show that 114 abortions in 2002 were of infants at 24 weeks gestation or more. The Sunday Times of 27 June, 2004, reported that a child was born at 25 weeks gestation a few hours before a scheduled abortion at Guy's Hospital, London. Abortion, neglect of abortion survivors and killing by lethal injections in utero place conscientious objectors among health care workers in difficult situations.

4 July, 2004
Euthanasia supporter threatening suicide

Andrew Graham of Fife, Scotland, has threatened to commit suicide because he suffers from multiple sclerosis and is in constant pain. He has asked that euthanasia be legalized.