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Protection of Conscience Project

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January-March, 2002


23 March, 2002
British High Court orders physicians to accede to patient desire for death

Dame Elizabeth Butler Sloss has ruled that a woman paralysed from the neck down has the mental capacity to refuse treatment, in the form of artificial ventilation, even if it will result in her death. She awarded a nominal judgement of £100 for 'trespass' by the physicians who refused to turn off the ventilator because they believed that to do so would violate their obligation to protect life. It has not been reported how the problem of conscientious objection by attending health care workers was dealt with, or if, in fact, the problem was even recognized. It has been suggested that the woman might be transferred to another hospital, which may make it possible for her to find health care workers who have no objection to giving effect to her decision.

21 March, 2003
Protection of conscience bill introduced in US Senate

The Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (S. 2008) has been introduced in the United States Senate by Senator Gregg. It amends 42 USC 238n, which protects health care entities from abortion-related discrimination, to clarify that 'health care entity' includes the broad range of health care providers. The bill also amends existing law by prohibiting discrimination based on an entity's refusal to pay for or provide coverage for abortion.

Politicians 'pro-choice' only for like-minded

The Compassionate Care for Female Sexual Assault Survivors Act is a bill designed by the "Pro-choice" Caucus of the American congress to force hospitals to supply the potentially abortifacient 'morning-after pill' to sexual assault complainants, even if the hospital is run by a religious group opposed to abortion. One of the bill's co-sponsors, Representative Diana DeGette (Democrat), boasted that the 'pro-choice' caucus was going to put the run on those who disagree with them, adding that the bill is only a first step in what appears to be an aggressive agenda to suppress freedom of conscience in health care.

Emergency Health Powers Act threatens freedom of conscience

The Institute for Health Freedom reports that the revised Model Emergency Health Powers Act, drafted by the American Center for Disease Control and academics, would expand state and local government powers. The Act could be used to force individuals to be medically examined, vaccinated, treated; those who refuse could be quarantined. Health care workers could be forced to administer treatments or drugs to which they have conscientious objections. The revised Model State Emergency Health Powers Act (dated December 21, 2001) can be accessed at Numerous American states are reported to be considering the proposal or other like it.

19 March, 2002
Assisted suicide opinion poll

An ABC News/Beliefnet poll suggests that roughly 48 percent of Americans oppose legalizing assisted suicide, while 40 percent support it. Religious belief appears to be a key factor in the responses, with Christians predominant among those who oppose it and non-Christians or non-religionists making up most of those in support. The division illustrates the problem inherent in legalizing morally controversial procedures without providing robust protection of conscience provisions in the law.

18 March, 2002
Britain's largest supermarket chain gives out free morning-after pills

The Tesco supermarket chain is dispensing the free morning-after pills to women under 20 in a pilot project two towns in western England. This kind of action may relieve pressure in the short term on conscientious objectors in pharmacy, whatever the pharmacological consequences. Long term consequences for conscientious objectors cannot be predicted with confidence.

European Court to consider assisted suicide case

Mrs. Dianne Pretty, who lost a bid for legalization of assisted suicide before the British House of Lords, has taken her case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Media coverage has not indicated that any interest is being taken in the problem that legalization would pose for health care workers who have moral objections to assisting in suicide.

Catholic teacher sues union over use of dues

The Springfield Education Association, Massachusetts Teachers Association and National Education Association are being sued by a Catholic teacher. He claims that he should not be forced to support groups that advocate abortion or condom distribution. The merits of the case are unclear, because he is not a union member, and pays an "agency fee" rather than ordinary dues. Agency fees are reduced payments made by those who don't support political activity by their unions. It appears that the agency fees are intended to cover the costs associated with collective bargaining, from which the payee presumably benefits.

14 March, 2002
Hawaiian legislators deny freedom of conscience

HB 1802, House Draft 1 has been passed by the lower house of the Hawaiian legislature. It would force all hospitals and primary-care clinics to provide the potentially abortifacient 'morning-after pills' to sexual assault complainants. (Honolulu Star Bulletin)

13 March, 2002
Jewish organizations offer qualified support for human cloning

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the Rabbinical Council of America have issued a joint statement that supports human cloning "for therapeutic purposes" while rejecting human cloning "for reproductive purposes."

Disabled Australian Children Sue Doctors for "Wrongful Birth"

In New South Wales, Australia, three "profoundly disabled" individuals are suing doctors for "wrongful life". The mother of one of the plaintiffs was not diagnosed with rubella when she was pregnant. The second plaintiff, a 17 month old with a clotting disorder, was conceived through in-vitro fertilization, while the third, a disabled two year-old, was born after what was apparently a failed vasectomy. It is argued that diagnosis of rubella would have resulted in an abortion in the first case, eugenic screening would have prevented the birth of the second, and the third would not have been conceived at all but for medical negligence.

10 March, 2002
Massachusetts attacks freedom of conscience

A new Massachusetts law requires that health plans offered to employees must include coverage for contraceptive devices. Support for the bill by legislators was overwhelming.

9 March, 2002
Birth control pill manufacturers sued

The British Medical Journal (BMJ 2002;324:561) reports that a case has been brought by over 100 women against Schering Healthcare, Wyeth , and Organon Laboratories. The suit alleges that the women suffered side effects from third generation birth control pills and, in seven cases, died. Side effects included deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, strokes, and cerebral vein thrombosis. If the case generates significant public interest, it may have the effect of reducing pressure on physicians who have moral objections to prescribing contraceptives.

8 March, 2002
Assisted Suicide bill passes in Hawaii

Supported by Hawaii Governor Ben Cayetano, an enabling amendment to the state constitution and a bill legalizing assisted suicide have been approved in the lower house of the Hawiian legislature. The bills may be stalled in the state Senate.

7 March, 2002
New source of stem cells identified

A report in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that stem cells can be obtained from circulating blood.

Irish abortion referendum results

By a margin of about 1%, the proposed amendment to Irish abortion law has been defeated. Voter turnout was low. City dwellers voted overwhelmingly against the amendment, which received much more support in the countryside. The pro-life vote was split because the proposed amendment would have made the human embryo a legal non-entity prior to implantation, even though it would ostensibly have disallowed the performance of abortions when the mother threatens suicide. The consequences of the referendum will not become clear for some time.

Clinic licensed to weed out problem embryos

A London fertility treatment centre has been licensed by Britain's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to eugenically screen in vitro embryos. The phrase used by a centres representative was "weeding out problem embryos". [The Times]

5 March, 2002
Morning-after pill banned in Argentina

The Argentine Supreme Court has ruled that, since human life begins at conception, the 'morning-after-pill' is to be considered an abortifacient because it may prevent implantation of the early embryo. The same conclusion led the Philippine government to ban the 'morning-after-pill'.

4 March, 2002
Canadian Institutes of Health Research approve embryo experimentation

Despite the fact that the Canadian parliament has yet to debate the government's proposed Assisted Human Reproduction Act, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has approved funding for destructive stem cell research on human embryos. CIHR guidelines will be applied by a Stem Cell Oversight Committee in approving applications to use embryos obtained from fertility clinics with the consent of their parents.

Kansas health professionals urged to support bill

The Health Care Providers' Rights of Conscience Act (HB 2711) will go to a floor vote in the Kansas House of Representatives on 14 March, 2002. If passed, it will move to the Senate. Freedom of conscience advocates in Kansas are seeking the active support of all health care professionals in their state to ensure that the bill moves forward. They request those interested to send their contact information to so that they can be kept abreast of developments, and to encourage friends and co-workers to do the same. An explanation of the bill is offered at Explanation of HB2711. A statement in support of the bill from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is also available.

1 March, 2002
Virginia Senate rejects freedom of conscience

The Virginia Senate has rejected House Bill 563, which would have provided protection for pharmacists and others who object to dispensing abortifacient drugs. Drugstore representatives spoke against the bill. A most remarkable statement was made by a Senator Warren E. Barry, speaking against freedom of conscience for health care workers: "It seems to me when someone enters the practice of medicine or pharmacy . . . they have an obligation. I didn't want to kill people when I went into the Marine Corps, but I knew it would be my job."


27 February, 2002
Eugenic screening in Chicago

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, a process in which embryos conceived in vitro are screened to detect genetic defects or other characteristics, has been used at the Reproductive Genetics Institute in Chicago to enable a woman to select a baby that will not develop early Alzheimer's. Dr. Jeff Nisker, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Western Ontario's medical school, told CBC Radio that the technique was originally developed to identify genetic defects in embryos in order to avoid late term abortions, not to develop "designer children".

United Kingdom authority can license human cloning

The British Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has been granted permission to issue licences for human cloning. The United Kingdom has limited protection of conscience legislation concerning abortion, but not governing the new reproductive technologies

26 February, 2002
India considering two child policy

Opening a seminar on 'reproductive health', the Indian Minister for Health and Family Welfare said that the government is considering implementation of a "two child policy". This would have consequences for all Indian citizens, but could particularly impact health care workers who have moral or religious objections to abortion, contraception, sterilization, or coercion of parents by the state.

Osteopathic physicians and assisted suicide

The January issue of the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association reports that a survey of over 1,000 osteopaths shows most opposed to assisted suicide, but a significant number (37-42%) whose answers suggest a willingness to participate in the procedure. The survey is available at

25 February, 2002
Belgian medical students to learn euthanasia techniques

Apparently anticipating the legalization of euthanasia in Belgium this year, the Belgian Free University plans to teach medical student how to kill their patients correctly. News reports do not indicate if this will be an elective or a mandatory course.

24 February, 2002
Embryos to be made to order in United Kingdom

Following approval for the artificial conception and selection of an embryo suitable as a bone marrow donor for a boy suffering from a fatal illness, it is reported that six more couples are seeking the same procedure.

Conscientious objectors in New Brunswick facing pressure

The December, 2001 bulletin of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick asks if "a greater onus" should laid upon physicians who have conscientious objections to a procedure to facilitate its provision to patients. "Council would like comment from physicians on whether the above guideline should be further clarified. For example, if a physician has a moral objection to a particular treatment approach, should there be a greater obligation to expedite access to another physician? Should a direct, and immediate, referral be mandated?" This part of the bulletin made headlines in February, and a retired Catholic bishop responded with a letter in defence of the objectors. See the Project letter to the Telegraph Journal on the subject.

22 February, 2002
Ontario doctor threatened with loss of licence for refusing birth control pill

Dr. Stephen Dawson of Barrie, Ontario, has been charged with professional misconduct as a result of complaints filed by four unmarried women. Dr. Dawson, a Christian, had refused to prescribe birth control pills for them. He also refuses to prescribe Viagra for single men, and would refuse to offer abortions or prescribe the potentially abortifacient 'morning-after-pill'. A University of Toronto professor characterized people like Dr. Dawson as "scum". See the story from The Barrie Examiner, and letters to the editor from the Project to The Barrie Examiner and the National Post. Comments from the Christian Medical and Dental Society and the Catholic Civil Rights League (Canada) appear in a Lifesite News story. Journalist Michael Coren comments in Real Audio at

21 February, 2002
Kentucky Senate passes bill to protect pharmacists

Senate Bill 109, providing protection for freedom of conscience of pharmacists, has passed the Kentucky Senate by a vote of 36-2.

Kansas Legislature in conscience debate

The Health Care Providers' Rights of Conscience Act is being hotly debated in Kansas. [Topeka Eagle, 21 February, 2002]

New Hampshire rejects freedom of conscience in health care

The New Hampshire General Court defeated House Bill 1209, which would have provided the state with its first protection of conscience statute.

18 February, 2002
Pro-life split developing in Ireland

Despite testimony before an Irish parliamentary committee to the effect that most obstetricians and gynaecologists in Ireland would be conscientious objectors were abortion to be legalized, the Irish Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has said that the legalization of abortion for the purpose of saving a mother's life would legalize an accepted practice. It is reported that 30 hospitals would be designated to provide abortions if the bill now the subject of a referendum is passed.

Meanwhile, a split has developed among those those opposed to abortion. The Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy Bill 2001 does not protect the early embryo, so that the potentially abortifacient 'morning-after-pill' and various forms of embryo experimentation would be legal if the bill passes. Some pro-lifers are against the bill for this reason; others believe that the bill can be supported. It is not clear what effect the split will have on the outcome of the referendum in March.

15 February, 2002
Planned Parenthood medical director and the Aryan warrior

Perhaps to coincide with a Planned Parenthood media campaign for the 'morning-after-pill', the BC Medical Journal featured an IUD-weilding Aryan warrior on the cover of its January/February issue, in which Dr. Roey Malleson, medical director of Planned Parenthood in British Columbia, suggested that physicians who fail to offer the drug may be 'negligent'. See the Project letter and news release about the article.

14 February, 2002
Science Magazine seeks to change cloning terminology

"Therapeutic cloning" should be replaced with the less controversial term "nuclear transplantation", according to an article in Science Magazine.

12 February, 2002
Cornell University experiments on live human embryos

Human embryos have been used to test experimental artificial wombs at Cornell University's Centre for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility. The Centre will eventually allow embryos to live for up to 14 days in the artificial wombs before killing them.

Virginia Assembly passes protection of conscience bill

House Bill 563 has been passed by the lower house in Virginia, USA, and will be introduced in the state Senate.

9 February, 2002
Widow conceives with sperm from dead husband

A widow in the United Kingdom has become pregnant for a second time using the sperm of her dead husband, whose name cannot be used on the birth certificate. Those who may not now be concerned about freedom of conscience should consider how such precedents may affect the concept of 'standard of care', and its implications for what might eventually be required of them.

6 February, 2002
21 Assisted Suicides in Oregon

2001 saw 21 reported cases of assisted suicide in Oregon, USA, where the procedure is legal. The report is at

5 February, 2002
American Board of Internal Medicine Revises Hippocratic Oath

The Christian Medical Association has criticized a new version of the Hippocratic Oath prepared by the American Board of Internal Medicine. See CMA commentary.

Maryland may force 'morning-after-pill' on hospitals

House Bill 930, pending in Maryland, would require all hospitals to dispense the potentially abortifacient 'morning-after-pill' to rape complainants, or provide them with information about the drug. While there is a potential for the bill to adversely impact freedom of conscience in some denominational institutions, it may be possible to comply with the provisions of the law by providing additional information that clearly sets out the moral objections of the institution to the drug, so as to disassociate the institution from its use.

4 February, 2002
Embryo declared a patient

The statement "The Embryo As Patient", signed by 200 doctors and surgeons at a conference held at Rome's University of La Sapienza, asserts that embryos have the same rights as other patients. The statement illustrates a views on the subject held by people within the medical and research community that is often not reflected by professional associations, regulatory authorities and others who can bring considerable pressure to bear on those who think differently.

Potential for conflict apparent in statements of religious leaders

Pope John Paul II has called upon all societies to "guarantee to every human the right to life from conception to natural death." He specifically included the human embryo as an individual whose fundamental right to life should be recognized in law. [Zenit] Consistent with this, the German parliament's recent vote to authorise imports of embryonic stem cells has been condemned by the president of the German Catholic episcopal conference and the president of the Council of German Evangelical Churches. Finally, Bishop Abelardo Alvarado, secretary general of the Mexican Catholic bishops' conference, has criticized and rejected a recent ruling from the Mexican Supreme Court liberalizing the abortion law. [The News Mexico]. There is clearly a potential for conflict between health care workers who wish to adhere to these expressions of religious belief, and interest groups or states that would suppress conscientious objection in order to facilitate morally controversial procedures or services.

1 February 1, 2002
British officials concede mechanism of MAP includes destruction of early embryo

The Guardian reports that the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child in the United Kingdom are seeking a judicial review of the sale of the 'morning-after-pill' in pharmacies. The Society will argue that pregnancy begins with fertilisation of the egg, and that the sale of the 'morning-after'pill' violates an 1861 law against supplying products intended to procure a miscarriage. What is of interest is the reaction of the Family Planning Association, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Department of Health to the possibility that the court might accept the arguments of the SPUC.

Toni Belfield of the Family Planning Association stated, "This would affect all except barrier methods and natural family planning sterilisation." The admission implicity concedes the point that is at the root of conscientious objections to dispensing the morning-after-pill and some contraceptives: that these drugs have a potentially abortifacient mechanism, in that they can cause the destruction of an early embryo.


30 January, 2002
Massachusetts politicians suppress expression of religious conviction

Massachusetts politicians refused to exempt denominational hospitals and colleges from a bill that forces private insurers to pay for contraceptives and potentially abortifacient devices. Unless resisted by civil disobedience or overturned by a court challenge, the law will effectively suppress the practice of religious belief by denominations that consider abortion or contraception to be morally objectionable. [Boston Globe] .

28 January, 2002
New York Assembly seeks to stop exercise of religious freedom

The lower house in the New York legislature has passed a bill that will force all employers to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives, without exemptions for religious denominations that hold contraception to be morally objectionable. The New York Senate, seeking a compromise that would protect religious freedom, blocked passage of a similar bill last year.

The Assembly also passed a bill to force hospitals to provide potentially abortifacient drugs to patients reporting that they had been raped, as well as information about abortion. It may be possible for institutions wishing to distance themselves from abortion to comply with the requirement to provide information, by supplementing what is required by statute with more specific information about the nature of the procedure and an explanation of why they object to participation in it. The requirement to supply potentially abortifacient drugs will clearly be more problematic. [New York Times]

25 January, 2002
Supreme Court of Canada on liability for 'wrongful birth'

Nine Canadian Supreme Court justices have ruled unanimously against Pam and Murray Krangle of Maple Ridge, British Columbia. The Krangles wanted their doctor to continue to cover costs for special care needs for their 10 year old son, who has Down Syndrome, after the boy reaches the age of majority. Their doctor had been found liable because he did not encourage eugenic screening so that the mother could choose to abort her son. The court ruled that once the child has reached the age of majority, responsibility for care shifts from the doctor to the state. It did not disturb the original finding of liability for 'wrongful birth'. [Text of ruling] [Previous news item on 'wrongful birth']

22 January, 2002
Civil liberties group attacks religious health care

The American Civil Liberties Union has launched an attack on the freedom of religious denominations to provide health care in accordance with their religious convictions. The ACLU wants to force Roman Catholic hospitals to provide abortions and contraceptive procedures, and has decided that threatening to put them out of operation by cutting off funds is the most effective way to do this. [Detroit News]

Pharmacology and the morning-after-pill

Conscientious objectors among pharmacists may now refer to a report in a peer reviewed journal, which "describes evidence that the drugs may sometimes fail to prevent ovulation and rely instead on an after-fertilization effect, causing abortion of the newly formed embryonic life." The authors argue that failure to provide this information to a patient is a violation of the principle of informed consent. See "Postfertilization Effect of Hormonal Emergency Contraception," by Chris Kahlenborn, MD, Joseph B. Stanford, MD, MSPH, and Walter L. Larimore, MD, will appear in the March 2002 issue of The Annals of Pharmacotherapy, and is now available online at The Annals of Pharmacotherapy is the leading peer-reviewed, international journal for physicians, pharmacists and other healthcare practitioners.

18 January, 2002
Treatment of terminally ill in Israel

The Israeli Health Minister has received proposals from a committee of 58 doctors, scientists, social workers, nurses, philosophers, lawyers, judges, and rabbis on treatment of the terminally ill. They are reported to have achieved unanimous agreement on 95% of the proposals, and their work has been described as "a model for public discussion of divisive issues."

Media reports describe the proposals as rejecting "active euthanasia", which implies that they accept "passive euthanasia", though the latter term is not used. On closer examination, what appears to be proposed is recognition of the right to refuse treatment that would only postpone natural death, formalized by 'living wills' and procedural safeguards. These are backed by a legal requirement to provide painkilling drugs, and the encouragement to develop and practise palliative medicine as a specialty. Most important, while starving or dehydrating patients in order to kill them has been legalized elsewhere, the proposals forbid withdrawal of food and fluids. [Jerusalem Post]

16 January, 2002
Pro-abortion doctors' group established in Ireland

Doctors for Choice has been formed in Ireland for the purpose of making abortion a normal part of Irish medical practice. It is headed by Drs. Peadar O'Grady and Mary Favier. Testimony before an Irish Parliamentary committee in 2000 indicated that the majority of obstetrician-gynaecologists in Ireland would refuse to participate in abortion for reasons of conscience.

10 January, 2002
"Wrongful Birth" court decision overruled in France

Following three cases in which French courts ruled that doctors could be sued because they did not diagnose birth defects during pre-natal eugenic screening, the French parliament has passed a bill that states: "nobody can claim to have been harmed simply by being born." The latest court ruling led to a strike by specialists, who refused to perform eugenic screening while not protected from liability for a missed diagnosis. The new law will allow parents to sue for damages only if a missed diagnosis is the result of a blatant error. It is not clear if refusal to provide eugenic screening for reasons of conscience will be considered a 'blatant error'. [News Link] [Previous item on 'wrongful birth']

Netherlands attracting euthanasia seekers

The London Times reports that Dutch euthanasia organizations have received dozens of enquiries from elsewhere in Europe, particularly Britain and Germany, following the formal legalization of euthanasia in the Netherlands. At present, one must reside in the Netherlands for some time before being eligible for euthanasia. As in the case of abortion, the fact that people have to go abroad to access a procedure not legally available in their own countries will probably be cited as an argument in favour of legalization. To the extent that this increases the demand for euthanasia or assisted suicide, this may eventually have significant implications for conscientious objectors in countries where euthanasia is not legal.

Given developments in the Netherlands over the last couple of decades, it is doubtful that the extended residence requirement will be strictly enforced in the long term. Euthanasia does not require expensive health care resources, and money will be spent in the country on food, accommodation, etc. by short-term visitors seeking euthanasia. This may be seen to be a net benefit that can be applied to the health care system, and may bring additional pressure to bear on conscientious objectors in the Netherlands.

Free 'morning-after-pill' for French adolescents

By decree of the French government, all girls under 18 may not get the morning-after pill without cost, prescription or parental authorization in French pharmacies. The report does not indicate whether or not provision of the pills has been made mandatory for pharmacists.

8 January, 2002
New York City mayor plans to make abortion training mandatory

The Village Voice reports that one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's campaign documents, Bloomberg's Blueprint for Public Health, includes a plan to require training in abortions in city public hospitals run by the Health and Hospitals Corporation. The plan would affect about 100 OB-GYN residents in the city's 11 public hospitals, but a New York Civil Rights law prevents conscientious objectors from being forced to participate. It is not clear, however, that conscientious objectors will be protected against discriminatory hiring practices.

Dutch doctors support doctor convicted of murdering patient

Dutch doctor Wilfred van Ooijen, convicted of murdering an 87 year old patient last year, is appealing his conviction. The woman he killed was terminally ill and in a coma, and had not requested euthanasia. Although it convicted the doctor, the court did not sentence him, apparently because it approved of his actions. A group of doctors in the Netherlands has established a fund to pay the legal costs of Dr. van Ooijen's appeal, apparently in the belief that killing the patient was consistent with sound medical ethics. The circumstances suggest that health care workers who object to euthanasia may find it increasingly difficult to work in the Netherlands. [BBC]

Woman sues for unexpected birth

The 26 year old mother of a healthy two year old girl is suing two doctors at different clinics in Montreal because they failed to diagnose her pregnancy, despite five trips to the clinics that included two gynecological exams. She gave birth in a toilet stall in January, 1999. She claims that she did not realize she was pregnant because she had always had irregular menstrual cycles and had gained no weight. Had she been told she was pregnant, she would have had an abortion. The case is unusual in that the child does not suffer from any handicaps, and failure to provide eugenic testing is not in issue. If the allegations are made out, it is possible that damages could be based on emotional trauma rather than the fact that the child is alive. It is not clear that the case will have an impact on the issue of conscientious objection.

4 January, 2002
Philippine government bans 'morning-after-pill'

A circular from the Bureau of Food and Drugs of the Philippines, and approved by Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit, M.D., has ordered the recall of the 'morning-after pill' Levonorgestrel and forbidden its importation to the country. The Bureau found that the drug, taken within three days after intercourse, inhibits the implantation of the early embryo (technically the blastocyst) in the uterus. The country's 1987 Constitution expressly protects life from the moment of conception.

3 January, 2002
Tasmanian situation illustrates peer pressure

Abortions in Tasmania were stopped after a fifth-year medical student, Armin Tadj, reported to police that he had seen doctors falsifying documents so that women who did not want to give birth could have abortions. Doctors and nurses, fearing prosecution, stopped performing abortions while Parliament was recalled to pass a new abortion law, which includes a protection of conscience provision. What is of particular interest is the fact that forgery must have been a fairly widespread practice, since it was stated in parliamentary debate that half the pregnancies in Tasmania were being ended by abortion before the change in the law. This is an example of the tremendous force that peer pressure can exert within a medical community. It is unlikely that such a community will welcome those who, like Armin Tadj, object to corrupt practices.

Professional organizations suggest advance prescriptions

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Ontario Medical Association (Canada) are recommending that doctors provide advance prescriptions for the morning-after pill. Dr. Ted Boadway, executive director of the Ontario Medical Association, is quoted as saying that many doctors are taking the advice on the grounds that regulators are "ignoring patient needs". It is possible that advance prescriptions will encourage women to make advance arrangements for obtaining the drug, thus relieving some of the pressure being applied to pharmacists who object to dispensing the 'morning-after-pill' because it is potentially abortifacient.

Dr. Boadway appears to be a consistent advocate of doctors 'going their own way'. He supported a 1994 motion from the ethics committee of the Canadian Medical Association that euthanasia no longer be proscribed as unethical, arguing that euthanasia was already "fairly widespread" and that doctors practising it would continue to do so. This kind of policy approach may have a significant impact on health care workers who take a different view.

2 January, 2002
Chinese one child policy now one child law

The Chinese government formally legalized its one-child population control policy that is reported to have been in effect for 21 years. City dwellers will be allowed only one child; two children will be allowed (if the first one is a girl) in rural areas. Even without formal legal authority, the one-child policy led to forced abortions and related problems for health care workers.

Euthanasia officially legal in Netherlands

The law to legalize euthanasia by lethal injection took effect on 1 January. There are reports that the Dutch Health Minister has advocated assisted suicide for non-terminal patients.