Project Logo

Protection of Conscience Project

Service, not Servitude
Subscribe to me on YouTube

October-December, 2001


31 December, 2001
Illinois attempts to force referral

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that hospitals that do not want to be involved with dispensing the potentially abortifacient 'morning-after-pill' are being pressured by a new Illinois law to inform rape complainants where to get the drugs.

28 December, 2001
Permission sought to conceive embryos for tissue donation

Five couples have applied to Victoria's Infertility Treatment Authority to conceive babies using in vitro fertilisation and then to use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to cull those not suitable as tissue donors for terminally ill siblings. A similar procedure was approved earlier in the United Kingdom.

24 December, 2001
Abortion advocates reject freedom of conscience

In Washington D.C., abortion advocates united to prevent passage of a bill funding medical centres because a protection of conscience amendment had been added to protect conscientious objectors from discrimination or coercion.

21 December, 2001
New Tasmanian abortion law includes protection of conscience provision

Parliamentarians were recalled from Christmas break to legalize abortion in Tasmania after a medical student complained to police that abortionists were falsifying documents in order to skirt the 75-year-old abortion law. Doctors stopped performing abortions after the complaint was made. The bill was amended to include protection for those who do not want to participate in abortion. [News Story]

20 December, 2001
Conscientious objection respected in Quebec

While Quebec pharmacists are being trained to dispense the 'morning after pill' without a prescription, Normand Cadieux, managing director of the Association Québécoise des Pharmaciens-Propriétaires (Association of Quebec Pharmacists) stated that those who have religious objections to the pill do not have to be certified to dispense it. It is reported that four thousand of the province's 5,700 pharmacists have already had the required training.
[The Gazette]

17 December, 2001
Euthanasia in Switzerland

It is reported that the Swiss National Council rejected restrictive and permissive bills on euthanasia. However, two forms of euthanasia: "indirect active" euthanasia, and "passive" euthanasia, are said to be recognized by the Swiss academy of medical sciences. [News Story]

Old news on an unusual condition

The Observer (U.K.) appears to have resurrected a two year old news release on the subject of "tokophobia" - a pathological dread of childbirth. The original news release refers to a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. Two of the 26 women who participated in the the study had abortions, even though their children were 'wanted'. The release described abortion as possibly the only choice in extreme cases "in the absence of an empathic professional listener or access to relevant medical literature." The suggestion that abortion might sometimes be "the only choice" may lead some people to conclude that health care workers have an obligation to assist.

Wrongful birth suit dismissed in Germany

The federal court in Karlsruhe, Germany has dismissed a suit brought by parents of identical twin girls against gynaecologists who had failed to inform them that one of the twins was physically handicapped. The parents, who said that they would have aborted the handicapped twin, had sought financial damages. The judges ruling on the basis that the abortion would have been illegal because it risked the life of the other twin, did not rule against 'wrongful birth' suits on principle. [British Medical Journal] (See previous news item.)

13 December, 2001
Maryland Catholic hospitals at risk

Maryland's Catholic bishops expect that a bill intended to suppress freedom of conscience in Catholic institutions will be re-introduced in the state legislature in January. The bill would repeal existing protection and force Catholic hospitals to dispense or refer patients for abortifacient drugs if the patients presented as rape victims. [Catholic News Service]

UK approves genetic culling of embryos

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) will allow parents use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis not only to screen in vitro embryos for the disease, but to identify an embryo whose umbilical cord blood can be used as a source of bone marrow or stem cells for an older sibling. A special licence would be required. Among the conditions for the procedure are requirements that the older sibling suffer from a "severe or life-threatening" condition, other possibilities of treatment and sources of tissue are not available, and tissue matching not be accomplished by genetic modification of embryos. [HFEA news]

12 December, 2001
Boy seeking sex-change, simultaneous 'fatherhood' and 'motherhood'

Health care professionals who would deny their colleagues freedom of conscience usually do not expect to be required to perform morally controversial procedures. The case of a 16 year old boy in England illustrates how existing technology and fluid moral outlooks can give rise to unusual expectations of medical treatment.

Jamie Cooper of Birmingham, England, wants to have his sperm frozen before a sex-change operation, so that it can be used to conceive a child in vitro. Cooper appears to want to be both 'mother' and biological father of a child. Having turned 16, he is eligible for a tax-funded sex-change operation from the National Health Service.

8 December, 2001
Concerns raised over possible amendment to Michigan bill

It is reported that Michigan House Bill 5158, which was originally drafted to provide protection of conscience for all people working in health care, will be amended to exclude protection for those with moral objections to contraception. It appears that the proposed exclusion reflects political rather than principled considerations. A vote is scheduled in the Michigan House of Representatives for 11 December, 2001.

Japan to allow human-animal hybrids

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who chairs the government's council for science and technology policy, has announced that Japan will allow combined human-animal embryos to be produced through cloning. The research is advocated in the hope that transplant organs can eventually be produced in animals. As is commonly the case when morally controversial procedures are officially approved, no thought appears to have been given to problems arising from conflicts of conscience among workers in the field.( Daily Yomiuri)

7 December, 2001
Wisconsin Bill would stop wrongful birth, wrongful life suits

Representative Neal Kedzie has proposed Wisconsin Assembly Bill 360, a bill that would prohibit wrongful life and wrongful birth lawsuits.

Wrongful birth lawsuits are civil actions brought by parents seeking monetary compensation for the birth of a child with disabilities. They usually assert that they would have aborted the child had the disabilities been diagnosed, and ask for money to pay for emotional distress and child care expenses.

Wrongful life lawsuits are brought by or on behalf of a child born with disabilities. It is argued that the existence of the child is a legal wrong, and that it would have been better had the child been aborted. In these cases the child seeks monetary compensation for pain, suffering and medical and educational expenses.

In contrast to malpractice suits for negligent or incompetent medical treatment, wrongful life/birth actions are brought against doctors who have not contributed to a the child's disability. They are sued because they are alleged to have failed to offer eugenic screening services, misdiagnosed the results of such screening, or otherwise dissuaded or prevented mothers from having abortions.

Assembly Bill 360 does not affect normal medical malpractice suits, including failure to properly diagnose and treat conditions that can be treated in utero or at birth.

At least nine American states prohibit wrongful life and wrongful birth lawsuits, and courts in several others have disallowed them. (See Supreme Court of Canada to hear 'wrongful birth' case ;Eugenic screening expected by French courts;No Christian gynaecologists and neonatologists in Netherlands ; Catholics and Pro-lifers Being Forced Out of Ob/Gyn Profession; Doctor sued for birth of Down Syndrome child; French doctors fear suits, threaten to stop eugenic screening)

French doctors fear suits, threaten to stop eugenic screening

In a letter to the French daily, Le Monde, 11 top prenatal specialists from eight hospitals in France have stated that they will refuse perform diagnostic tests on unborn children. The doctors were reacting to a French high court ruling in a wrongful life suit that awarded substantial monetary compensation to a child with Downs syndrome. The specialists did not object to eugenic screening per se, but expressed concern that the court had set a precedent that would penalize even doctors who practising competently. It appears that they are willing to continue the screening if they are adequately insured against civil suits. However, that solution would likely be of no help to health care professionals who have moral objections to eugenic screening and eugenic abortions. (See Supreme Court of Canada to hear 'wrongful birth' case ;Eugenic screening expected by French courts;No Christian gynaecologists and neonatologists in Netherlands ; Catholics and Pro-lifers Being Forced Out of Ob/Gyn Profession; Doctor sued for birth of Down Syndrome child )

6 December, 2001
Irish House passes bill that denies protection to early embryo

By a vote of 74 to 71, the Dáil passed the 25th Amendment to the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill after the Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) cut off debate. The measure will now go to the Seanad. The title of the bill suggests that it is intended to protect the developing infant during pregnancy, but does not provide protection to the early embryo between fertilization and implantation.

Legal or policy definitions of pregnancy as beginning at implantation have elsewhere had an adverse impact on conscientious objectors who do not want to dispense the 'morning after pill', or who do not want to be involved with early embryo experimentation, artificial reproduction, etc. (See Contradicting state policy may lead to jail in the U.K.; U.K. authority moves to suppress freedom of expression; Irish Medicine Board declares 'morning-after-pill' non-abortifacient; College of Pharmacists still opposed to freedom of conscience; Project Report 2001-01; Award for essay against freedom of conscience ; Demands for 'morning after pill' a problem for Catholic health care; Planned Parenthood attacks freedom of conscience Medical Students for Choice oppose freedom of choice in health care; New terminology for cloned embryos)

Since Ireland does have a limited protection of conscience law that covers both contraception and abortion, it is not clear what impact the law will have. While its legal effect may be limited, its educative and normative influence might well prove significant.

4 December, 2001
No fetal cells in new smallpox vaccines

The World Net Daily reports that Acambis PLC of Great Britain, which has been awarded a contract to manufacture additional smallpox vaccine by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will not use a stem-cell line from an aborted fetus in the manufacturing process. A previous report from the Daily indicated that Acambis planned to make the new vaccine using MRC-5 cells, a line that originated in 1966 from a 14-week fetus aborted for psychiatric reasons. That such cells might be used in vaccines had given rise to concerns that anti-terrorism measures might impact those with conscientious objections to abortion. (See Smallpox vaccine may pose moral problems ; Anti-terrorism measures and medical practice)

Attempt to bar Christian nurse from practice fails

The Saskatchewan Association of Licensed Practical Nurses (SALPN) (Canada) attempted to prohibit a Christian nurse from practising his profession because of his public protests against abortion and opposition to homosexual activism. The SALPN buttressed its claim that Bill Whatcott was guilty of professional misconduct by referring to a 20 year old criminal record, dating from a troubled period in his pre-Christian youth, and to more recent convictions for civil disobedience. The adjudicator ruled that the criminal record was irrelevant, commenting that it was to his credit "that he endured such a youth and then had the strength and wisdom to seek a new lifestyle and a new profession." With respect to Whatcott's civil disobedience, the adjudicator concluded that it was peaceful, and not unusual in a society where illegal protests about a variety of issues are common.

Whatcott has been a nurse for 12 years. That he should have been put to the expense of defending himself before a disciplinary tribunal for exercising freedom of conscience and expression is not unusual in Canada. (See, for example, Worker fired for refusing payment for illegal abortion; Nurses triumphant! Human rights case ends in settlement )


28 November, 2001
Selective foeticide becoming common

Mark Evans, chairman of obstetrics and gynaecology at MCP Hahnemann university in Philadelphia, states that it is becoming increasingly common for women pregnant with twins, either as a result of artificial reproductive technology or natural twinning, to have one of the infants killed in utero by lethal injection. [Report] Professor Evans told a fertility congress in Melbourne, Australia, that all parents of twins should consider aborting one in order to reduce the risk of prematurity and complications at birth.

The Melbourne (Australia) Advertiser reports an example of such a case involving a woman pregnant with twins by IVF. Professor Gab Kovacs said the Melbourne woman was "under psychological stress" and "decided she couldn't cope" with twins. About 12 women a year in Victoria alone are said to abort one twin.

The growing frequency of the practice is likely to have increasing impact on conscientious objectors.

House of Lords rejects "right to die" suit

A panel of five law lords ruled unanimously that human rights legislation exists to protect
life, rejecting the application of an English woman for permission for assisted suicide. Dianne Pretty has indicated that she will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. [BBC Report] [See British House of Lords accepts appeal of assisted suicide case]

23 November, 2001
UN agency accused of bias against pro-life obstetricians

Dr. Robert Walley, medical director of MaterCare International (MCI), asserts that the United Nations is more interested in stopping births through contraception and abortion than helping women who suffer complications in childbirth. This bias causes the UN to ignore obstetricians and gynaecologists willing to help desperate women in some of the world's poorest countries. He notes that billions of dollars are spent on abortion and birth control programmes, but only a fraction of that amount is dedicated to providing emergency obstetrical care.

Of particular concern to MCI is a condition known as obstetric fistulae, which occurs when a woman's bladder or rectum become damaged during obstructed labor. MCI trains traditional birth attendants to prevent obstetric fistulae and performs surgery on women who suffer from the condition. The UN is hampering MCI's efforts to provide essential obstetrical care in East Timor, even though, according to Dr. Walley, "there are no obstetricians in this country with a population of 700,000 and one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Asia." This suggests to Walley that the UN believes it is better for East Timor to have no obstetrician than to have a pro-life obstetrician.

Dr. Walley has previously criticized UN officials in East Timor because of aggressive imposition of their values on the people. [Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute]

Contradicting state policy may lead to jail in the U.K.

Donna Mitchell of the Committee for Advertising Practice has suggested that those who continue to publish ads that contradict the official government position on the "morning after pill" could be fined or imprisoned. (See U.K. authority moves to suppress freedom of expression)

21 November, 2001
Euthanasia reported among 4% of Australian surgeons

A study conducted by Newcastle university and reported in the Medical Journal of Australia reports that one in 25 Australian surgeons has given a lethal injection to a patient who requested it. One third admitted to having hastened a patient's death by prescribing excessive doses of pain killers, but the interpretation of this figure is problematic. The study surveyed two thirds of Australia's surgeons.

Embryo experimentation approved in Singapore

The Bioethics Advisory Committee in Singapore has approved experimentation on human embryos aged up to 14 days on the grounds that the personhood of the early embryo is "far from being realized". As usual, the possibility of conscientious objection by researchers or others does not appear to have been considered.

19 November, 2001
Anti-terrorism measures and medical practice

Lawrence Gostin, director of a centre on public-health law at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins universities, has drafted legislation that would permit mandatory examination, vaccination or treatment, including mandatory vaccinations for children entering school if a state governor declared an emergency and invoked the law. Refusal to submit to vaccination, quarantine or treatment would be be offences. The proposed legislation is a response to the threat of bioterrorism. It is unclear what impact it might have on people who object to vaccines that have been obtained from morally controversial sources. [Washington Post]

17 November, 2001
Columbian health care workers likely to be pressured

Columbian pharmacists and other health care workers who object to the "morning after pill" for reasons of conscience will likely come under pressure as a result of a decision by the Colombian Health Ministry to approve its sale. [See previous news item from Columbia]

November 16, 2001
Korean doctors` ethical guidelines raise questions

The Korea Herald reports that the Korean Medical Association (South Korea's largest group of medical doctors) issued new ethical guidelines that prohibit involvement in euthanasia and advise caution when deciding to perform abortions. However, it is said that they should accept the request of the family to suspend "life-sustaining treatment" in the case of a patient who has no chances of reviving. It is not clear from the report whether or not "life-sustaining treatment" includes artificial nutrition and hydration, and it is significant that the article refers to "revival" rather than "survival", suggesting that the guidelines are meant to apply to patients who are not terminally ill.

North American jurisprudence has adopted the view that assisted nutrition and hydration is a form of treatment that can be refused by a patient or surrogate decision maker. This has allowed patients to be legally starved to death. Those who consider nutrition and hydration (assisted or not) to be part of basic care that is always to be provided believe that bringing about the death of patients by starvation or dehydration is euthanasia, whether or not the fact is acknowledged in law. Depending upon the interpretation of the guidelines, Korean health care workers who are morally opposed to euthanasia may find themselves pressured to participate by their professional organizations.

European Court ruling ghettoizes religious belief in Europe

In October, 2001, the European Court of Human Rights dismissed an appeal by French pharmacists Bruno Pichon and Mrs Marie-Line Sajous. They had argued that they should not be forced to dispense a drug marketed as a contraceptive that sometimes had an abortifacient effect, as they were opposed to abortion on religious grounds.

The court ignored the argument about the nature of the drug, and instead interpreted Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights to mean that the practice of religious belief "does not cover each and every kind of public act or behaviour, motivated or inspired by a religion or a belief." It appears that the court interprets practice or expression of religion or belief to mean narrowly religious worship, teaching, and ritual observance. In effect, the Court has ruled that religious believers who actually attempt to live by their faiths may be forced out of civic and professional life.

15 November, 2001
Irish Medicine Board declares 'morning-after-pill' non-abortifacient

Reversing a decision made about 18 months ago, the Irish Medical Board has aligned itself with the position of the Irish Government, which states that the drug Levonelle does not fall within the definition of abortion set out in the Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy bill, now before the Dáil. A cabinet sub-committee recommended last month that legal uncertainties about the drug should be removed. The IMB consulted the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecolgists and a senior lawyer. Irish Times

The change may not impact conscientious objectors directly because Ireland's protection of conscience law prevents them from being forced to participate in the distribution of contraceptives. However, the law does not prohibit discrimination against them, so they may find themselves excluded from educational programmes and from employment.

14 November, 2001
U.K. authority moves to suppress freedom of expression

The Advertising Standards Authority in the United Kingdom has ordered the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children to stop describing 'morning-after-pills' as "abortion-inducing", apparently because official government policy is to deny that the drug has an abortifacient mechanism. The development is of interest for two reasons. First: citizens in a democratic country are being forbidden to express opinions that contradict government policy. Second: conscientious objection to the drug can be suppressed on the ground, not that the reasons for objection (in most cases, that the 'morning-after-pill' may have an abortifacient effect) are erroneous, but because they are contrary to state policy. [Guardian, 14 November]

College of Pharmacists still opposed to freedom of conscience

The Annual General Meeting of the BC College of Pharmacists meeting was held in Burnaby on 3 November, 2001. The only resolution presented at the meeting proposed an amendment to the College Code of Ethics to respect freedom of conscience. The resolution was defeated 24-14, but the degree of support for the motion was a surprise to at a least one experienced pharmacist. A member of the College's Ethics Committee found himself challenged by a young pharmacist for attempting to impose his own views as a kind of religion.

Freedom of conscience advocates met a number of supporting colleagues, including one who prescribes the 'morning after pill' but understands and respects those who do not. Some support came from unexpected quarters, and it appears that some members of the College Council are becoming sensitive to the problem. The Registrar allowed those supporting the resolution to display material and offered to announce that it would be available.

For background on the situation in British Columbia, see "Autonomy", "Justice"and the Legal Requirement to Accommodate; In Defence of the New Heretics; Project Report 2001-01

French Health Minister considers change to euthanasia law

Le Monde reports that French Health Minister Bernard Kouchner now believes the law prohibiting euthanasia should be changed. (See previous breaking news item.) It does not appear that the effects of such a change on those in the medical profession who object to euthanasia are being taken into account. Recent changes to the French abortion law have led to conflicts of conscience and resignations of some hospital medical staff.

Project advisor addresses Pharmacy Law Institute

Law Professor Lynn Wardle of Brigham Young University delivered a paper at the Fall Institute of the Pharmacy Law Institute in Columbus, Ohio on 9 November, 2001. The title of the paper was Why A New Law? Model Conscience Clause Legislation. Professor Wardle will be speaking February 1-2, 2002 at the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists midwinter symposium in Ft.Lauderdale, Florida about freedom of conscience. Professor Wardle is an advisor to the Protection of Conscience Project.

Award for essay against freedom of conscience

The grand prize in the 2001 student literary challenge sponsored by the Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal has been awarded to a University of Alberta student whose essay, The Conscience Clause: A Threat to Pharmaceutical Care, was published in the Journal's September supplement. The author argues that it is unethical for pharmacists to refuse to dispense legal medication on moral grounds, and concludes that freedom of conscience should not be allowed because it might hinder access to legal drugs.

French doctors ordered to implement law, resigned

A study by the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation has found doctors uneasy about legal amendments that have liberalized France's abortion law. The July amendments raised the gestational time limit for abortion from 10 to 12 weeks and allowed minors to obtain abortions without parental consent. Many doctors are reported to be uncomfortable about later term abortions, and some hospitals find it almost impossible to recruit doctors willing to perform them. Doctors at the Edouard Herriot hospital in Lyons resigned when administrators told medical staff in the gynaecology department to implement the new law. [Zenit, 7 November]

8 November, 2001
Principle of informed consent violated by U.K. nurses

According to a BBC report, girls as young as nine years old are being subjected to secret pregnancy tests by emergency room nurses in the United Kingdom. The news agency states that one in five emergency nurses in UK hospitals are performing such tests without the knowledge of the parent or child, on the grounds that the tests are necessary before the girls are X-rayed. Since this violates the principle of informed consent, a conscientious objector would likely be supported by the ethics establishment in refusing to participate, but might well come under pressure from colleagues, especially if refusal to participate would bring the practice to the attention of critics. [BBC News]

Demands for 'morning after pill' a problem for Catholic health care

Problems have arisen in negotiations that would have seen a "hospital within a hospital" established to avoid conflict with the requirements of Catholic health care (See Compromise proposed in hospital reorganization).

The Seton Health Care Network has advised the mayor and council of Austin, Texas, that, even in a separately licensed facility within the hospital, rape victims must be tested to see if they are ovulating before potentially abortifacient drugs can be dispensed.

Bishop Gregory Aymond of the Catholic Diocese of Austin will be speaking with Seton representatives and Catholic ethicists about the situation. While noting that the church condemns rape as a terrible evil and responds compassionately to rape victims, "a Catholic institution cannot act or cooperate in an action that destroys human life."

The proposed protocol is said to be still under review, but the development caught the mayor by surprise. Annoyed, he withdrawn the item from the City Council agenda, cancelled a public hearing on the matter and "postponed indefinitely" any further action by the council. He suggested that dispensing the controversial drugs was "fundamental . . . and not negotiable."

The problem arose in June, 2001, when Seton, announced sterilizations and contraceptive services could no longer be provided at Brackenridge Hospital due to revised religious directives that banned participation in such activities. At that time, Seton officials did not expect to make changes in provision of the potentially abortifacient 'morning after pill'. The present change of approach is said to originate in issues raised in 1994, prior to the revised directives.

Seton proposed to continue providing the bulk of the maternity services, but an oversight council and women's health organizations objected. The council recommended that the city take control of all maternity and reproductive services and contract with a company to manage the operation.
[American-Statesman Staff, October 26, 2001]

Smallpox vaccine may pose moral problems

Children of God For Life, a group that opposes the use of tissue from deliberately aborted babies in research or therapy, is concerned that a new smallpox vaccine, apparently being proposed in response to fears of biological terrorism, may use aborted fetal cell lines.

The contract for developing the vaccine was awarded to the Oravax/Acambis Corporation. Children of God for Life states that its research shows that the company intends to use aborted fetal cell line MRC-5 as the cell substrate for growing the virus. A Centers for Disease Control document verifies that "Recently, MRC-5 was used as a cell substrate for the preparation of an experimental smallpox vaccine under a Phase 1 trial."

Children of God for Life notes that smallpox vaccine can be made using animal substitutes. A requirement to participate in an inoculation programme using vaccines derived from fetal cell tissue would likely result in controversy.  (See update No fetal cells in new smallpox vaccines)

Japanese university approves destructive embryonic research

An ethics committee at Kyoto university has approved embryonic research due to start in March. Final approval must come from the Japanese government. [Ananova, 5 November]

2 November, 2001
British House of Lords accepts appeal of assisted suicide case

The House of Lords has agreed to hear a right-to-die case after a panel of three High Court judges ruled unanimously against a request for assisted suicide made by Dianne Pretty, a 47-year-old British woman who suffers from motor neurone disease.
(See UK Woman loses right-to-die case)


31 October, 2001
Abortion activist indicates "socio-economic" reasons for abortion

Consistent with Health Canada's admission earlier this year that it had no evidence to support its claim that abortion is a medically necessary procedure, the Executive Director of the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League (CARAL) has told the Canadian House of Commons Finance Committee that women seeking abortions "... do so for socio-economic reasons. Sometimes it is a desire to complete their education and become financially independent. In many cases, couples with children wish to restrict their family size in order to provide adequate financial support. Often, choosing abortion is a conscious decision not to become a socio- economic burden on society."

When asked by Member of Parliament Jason Kenney how a procedure done for "socio-economic" reasons could be medically necessary, Wilson replied that if the provinces determine it to be necessary, then it is.

The submission is of interest because those who would force health care workers to participate in abortions usually justify their demand with the assertion that the procedure is medically necessary. (See also Canadian health minister advised to demand payment for private abortions)

25 October, 2001
Belgian Senate Approves Assisted Suicide

In a measure that will adversely impact health care workers opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide, the Belgian Senate approved a bill allowing terminally ill patients to seek assistance from a doctor in committing suicide. The bill, which passed the Senate by a vote of 44-23 division (with 2 abstentions), must pass the House of Representatives.

18 October, 2001
UK Woman loses right-to-die case

Diane Pretty, who is dying from motor neurone disease, has lost a High Court challenge to laws against assisted suicide. She plans to take the case to the House of Lords. [BBC News]
(See English woman argues for right to assisted suicide)

17 October, 2001
Wal Mart sued over contraceptive coverage

A 22-year-old female employee is suing Wal Mart, claiming that the failure to include contraceptive coverage in its insurance plan amounts to discrimination against women. The case does not appear to deal with the issue of conscientious objection by an employer, but may have an impact in such cases. [USA Today]

15 October, 2001
Michigan bill would provide "conscience clause"

House Bill 5158, superseding an earlier bill that died in committee, offers protection to health care workers and facilities. An unusual feature of the bill is a "5%" rule that permits termination of an employee if the service to which he objects occupies more than 5% of his daily work. The bill's chief sponsor has indicated that he would consider making referral a requirement for conscientious objectors, which a number of conscientious objectors would be unwilling to accept. [Holland Sentinel]

14 October, 2001
Planned Parenthood attacks freedom of conscience

A federal court judge has agreed to allow Planned Parenthood to intervene in a lawsuit to support KMart, who fired a pharmacist for refusing to dispense abortifacient drugs. The ruling will likely result in postponement of a November 5th trial date for a case that began in 1996. This illustrates the need for legislation to protect individuals who may be forced into bankruptcy or significant debt in legal battles with major corporations and powerful, moneyed interests.

The case began when Kmart fired Karen Brauer, an Indiana pharmacist, after she refused to dispense Micronor, a progestin-only contraceptive that works in a significant number of patients by preventing the implantation of an early embryo.

9 October, 2001
Kansas Supreme Court establishes conditional duty to unborn child

In a 7-0 decision, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that, "as a matter of law. . . a physician who has a doctor-patient relationship with a pregnant woman who intends to carry her fetus to term and deliver a healthy baby also has a doctor-patient relationship with the fetus."

By implication, the ruling makes the existence of the relationship conditional upon the intention of the mother. While this presents a number of logical and practical difficulties (notably the problem that arises should a mother change her mind during the pregnancy), the ruling does suggest that physicians do not act unreasonably when they recognize a physician-patient relationship with a child in utero. [Washington Times]

5 October, 2001
Patient ordered starved to death

The English high court has authorised doctors to withdraw food and fluids from an unconscious patient ruled to be in a "persistent vegetative state". Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, president of the high court's family division, stated: "She would want to die in peace and not to persist in the twilight limbo in which she exists at the moment." The legally established practice of causing death by starvation and dehydration requires the participation of health care personnel, some of whom may decline to assist for reasons of conscience. [BBC News]

Medical Students for Choice oppose freedom of choice in health care

A group identifying itself as pro-choice circulated an e-mail to New Jersey students in support of legislation intended to suppress freedom of choice and freedom of conscience. It appears that the Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage (EPICC) Act force even those with moral objections to contraception to provide contraceptive coverage in health insurance. The e-mail indicated that the measure was also supported by Planned Parenthood.

3 October, 2001
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists requires eugenic screening

The ACOG has issued guidelines requiring that every pregnant white woman in the United States be offered a test for the gene mutation that causes cystic fibrosis. The test will also be offered to every couple planning to have a baby if one of the partners is white. The gene for cystic fibrosis is carried by one in every 29 white Americans. It appears that a positive pre-conception test will result in referral for in vitro fertilisation and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, while a positive post-conception test will result in abortion. The guidelines will likely make practice more difficulty for physicians who oppose eugenic practices for reasons of conscience.  (See Supreme Court of Canada to hear 'wrongful birth' case ;Eugenic screening expected by French courts;No Christian gynaecologists and neonatologists in Netherlands ; Catholics and Pro-lifers Being Forced Out of Ob/Gyn Profession; Doctor sued for birth of Down Syndrome child )

2 October, 2001
Project Administration disabled by virus

The Project Administrator's computer was infected by a virus, probably some time during the last half of September, 2001. The virus disabled the anti-virus programme and destroyed all information on the hard drive. It also mailed itself to contacts in the Project address book.

New York state attacking freedom of conscience

New York Assembly Bill 675 is reported to require every individual and group health insurance policy that offers maternity coverage to provide abortion coverage. Bill A.4397 may be interpreted to mean that the state Public Health Council could demand that abortions be provided as a condition for the issue of certificates or other approvals. Similarly, bill A. 2674 could be interpreted by the state Public Health Council to authorize it to force hospitals to include abortion in their mission statements.

1 October, 2001
Approval sought for made-to-order baby for marrow donation

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in the United Kingdom has been asked to approve the artificial conception of a child to provide a two year old boy with compatible bone marrow donor. In vitro fertilisation and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis would be used to select the donor embryo to be brought to term; unsuitable embryos would probably be destroyed. The case illustrates how people who object to such procedures will likely face increasing pressure as new technologies become more popular. [BBC News]

American Society for Reproductive Medicine on sex selection

There is some disagreement at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), which was recently reported to have allowed clinics to use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) for sex selection for non-medical reasons. It had already approved sex selection by means of sperm sorting. PGD involves the screening of embryos created in vitro for the desired sex, with the probable destruction of embryos found to be of the wrong sex. This is consistent with suggestions being made by some people in England, and problematic for some conscientious objectors.

A later report indicates that John A Robertson, chairman of the Society's ethics committee supports in vitro sex selection of embryos for non-medical reasons, but Dr. Robert Rebar, associate executive director of the ASRM, insists that the committee stands by its previous policy of discouraging sex selection. [Buffalo News, 4 November] []
(See British philosopher advocates in vitro sex selection)

Supreme Court of Canada to hear 'wrongful birth' case

The Canadian Supreme Court will consider whether payments from a doctor's insurance company should continue indefinitely or whether a 10 year old Down syndrome child should receive state welfare support. He is reported to require lifetime care. His mother says that her doctor did not advise her to take an amniocentesis test, and she would have aborted her son had she been made aware of his condition before birth. 'Wrongful birth' suits have a serious impact on doctors who do not wish to be associated with eugenic screening. [National Post] (See also Eugenic screening expected by French courts;No Christian gynaecologists and neonatologists in Netherlands ; Catholics and Pro-lifers Being Forced Out of Ob/Gyn Profession; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists requires eugenic screening; Doctor sued for birth of Down Syndrome child )

Australian parliamentary report on cloning, stem cell research

Date 17 September, 2001: House of Representatives of the Australian Parliament [Report]

British philosopher advocates in vitro sex selection

Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Dr David McCarthy of the university of Bristol advocates a legal right for parents to select the sex of their child using in vitro fertilisation (IVF) technology. He asserted that IVF and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) could be used to allow people to have balanced families and legalisation would therefore be unlikely to have much impact on the overall sex ratio. As usual, the potential impact on those who do not wish to participate in sex selection was not considered. [BBC News online, 1 October]