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Protection of Conscience Project

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January-March, 2004


31March, 2004
Four protection of conscience measures pass Michigan legislative committee

A "Conscience Clause" package has successfully passed the committee stage in the Michigan House. HB 5006 would protect any individual health care providers; medical facilities, like private hospitals, are covered by HB 5276. HB 5277 and HB 5278 would guarantee freedom of conscience for insurance companies. Passage was assisted by testimony from Michael O'Dea of Christus Medicus Foundation.

29 March, 2004
Wisconsin pharmacist fined for acting according to conscience

A Wisconsin pharmacist Neil Noesen has been fined $250.00 for refusing, for reasons of conscience, to fill a prescription for a contraceptive, or to refer the patient elsewhere. The patient attempted to intimidate him by calling the police. He has refused to pay the fine, and his case is to be heard in May. [Police Used to Intimidate Objecting Pharmacist]

28 March, 2004
Sex selection clinic opening in London

Dr Panos Zavos plans to work from an office in London, England, two days each month to provide pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to couples who want to choose the sex of a child. The procedure, illegal in the United Kingdom, will be performed in the United States. [Sunday Herald, 28 March]

26 March, 2004
Hospital attempts involuntary starvation of patient

Barbara Howe, a patient at the Massachusetts General Hospital, is suffering from advanced Lou Gehrig's Disease. She has been on a ventilator since 1999. She is unable to speak but is not comatose, and is reported to appreciate visits from her family. Claiming that she was suffering, the hospital sought a court order to cease assisted nutrition and hydration, against the patient's previously expressed wishes and contrary to the direction of her daughter, who is her health care proxy. The court ruled against the hospital. [Boston Channel] Some health care workers, ordered to stop food and fluids for patients who are not dying, may object to the instructions for reasons of conscience.

25 March, 2004
96% of Spanish gynaecologists are conscientious objectors

The Spanish pro-life group Provida claims that 96% of gynaecologists in Spain's public hospitals refuse to perform abortions for reasons of conscience. According to the report, in 1986, a year after abortion was legalized in Spain, only 2 out of 100 gynaecologists at La Paz Hospital in Madrid were willing to perform them. By the end of 2003, in some regions, such as Valencia, no abortions had been performed for five years. Only one doctor at the largest hospital in Valencia has performed abortions. Such widespread opposition within the medical profession to morally controversial procedures will normally protect conscientious objectors even if no protection of conscience laws exist. However, a significant shift of opinion can quickly deprive objectors of this protection, as well as diminishing the likelihood that protective legislation can be passed.
22 March, 2004
Muslim state cancels vaccination campaign due to fears of clandestine sterilization

The northern largely Muslim Nigerian state of Kano has refused to participate in a World Health Organization polio vaccination programme because of a report that the vaccine may render women infertile. State Governor Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau told the BBC that the state would reconsider the move only if officials were convinced of the "efficacy and safety" of the vaccine.

English Liberal Democrats advocate legal assisted suicide

A motion favouring assisted suicide was endorsed at the Liberal Democrat's party conference. Chris Davies, a Liberal Democrat MEP helped to draft the motion because he perceived widespread public support for a change in the law. While legalization of assisted suicide is now official party policy, MPs will be allowed to vote against it in Parliament. [This is Bury, 19 March; The Scotsman, 20 March]

21 March, 2004
Donor baby to be conceived at public expense

Britain's National Health Service has agreed to pay for the conception of embryos by in vitro fertilization so that a donor embryo can be selected and brought to term to provide bone marrow for a sick sibling. [The Times of London, 21 March]

20 March, 2004
Pope declares nutrition and hydration 'morally obligatory' in principle

Pope John Paul II, speaking at an international congress in Rome, has declared that the provision of food and fluids to persons in a 'vegetative state' are natural means of preserving life, not medical treatment. The statement clarifies an important issue for those who adhere to Catholic teaching, and may be influential beyond the Catholic Church. However, it contradicts jurisprudence in several jurisdictions, where courts have supported or ordered the withdrawal of assisted nutrition and hydration on the grounds that it is medical "treatment". [Papal statement]

19 March, 2004
Medical student in difficulty at University of Manitoba

A Christian medical student in his fourth year at the University of Manitoba has been failed in his obstetrics and gynaecology rotation because of differences with his preceptors on abortion and related issues. The failing grade was given in the summer of 2003, but the student has avoided publicity and has been attempting to resolve the problem through the university's internal appeal process. His predicament became public this month, after he lost his third appeal. A local radio station reported the situation, apparently relying on third-party information. The report included a statement from Dr. Brian Magwood, Associate Dean at the Faculty of Medicine, which did not accurately reflect the issues in the case. The news elicited a sharp warning to the university from lawyer Iain Benson, executive director of the Centre for Cultural Renewal [See Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Conscience Protection: The Freedom of Conscience in Relation to "Health" ].

The station also posted an internet poll question: "Should a medical student be allowed to graduate, even though he won't offer abortion as an option?" Results, posted the following day, were 54.72% 'Yes', 45.32% 'No.'

The next level of appeal is to the university senate, should other attempts at resolution prove unsuccessful. Lifesite News has requested prayers for the student and his family and suggested that messages of support can be sent to him through

16 March, 2004
Wisconsin governor promises to veto freedom of conscience

The Governor of Wisconsin, who previously described the conscientious convictions of health care workers as 'whims', plans to veto a protection of conscience bill passed by the state legislature. [News release]

15 March, 2004
Swiss move to reduce suicide tourism

During 2003, 91 foreign nationals went to Switzerland to commit suicide with the assistance of a private group. Swiss authorities now plan to require six month's residence in the country as a condition for obtaining assisted suicide. [The Telegraph, 14 March] There will be a requirement that those assisting with suicide be qualified by having passed tests on various ways to cause death. The associated costs of police and medical reports are to be offset by increasing the tax on suicide facilities. [Scotland on Sunday, 29 February] Normalization of the procedure will naturally increase the number of people directly or indirectly involved, and increase the likelihood of conflicts of conscience.

New Zealand euthanasia trial begins

Lesley Martin, a euthanasia advocate, is going to trial for the murder in the death of her terminally ill mother in 1999. The charges were laid after she confessed to giving her mother an overdose of morphine and smothering her. She hopes that the outcome of the trial will generate more support for legalization of the procedure. A bill to legalize assisted suicide in New Zealand was defeated by a margin of only two votes. [The Age, 15 March] [Guardian]

13 March, 2004
Australian nurses testify about assaults to prevent emergency care

A legislative committee studying the handling of complaints within the New South Wales health care system has been told that health care workers who attempted to summon emergency medical assistance for patients with problematic vital signs were obstructed or even assaulted to prevent them from doing so. The incidents were alleged to have occurred at Campbelltown and Camden hospitals. One of the witnesses reported six cases of obstruction by nurses in a ten day period, and that she had been personally prevented from pressing the call button 20 times in three months. [News report]

11 March, 2004
UNICEF suspected of clandestine sterilization

Dr. Haruna Kaita, Dean of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria, found that polio vaccine used by UNICEF to vaccinate Nigerian children was contaminated. According to Dr. Kaita, tests conducted at a lab in India, including Gas Chromatography (GC) and Radio-Immuno assay, detected some toxic ingredients as well as some, like estrogen, that cause an "anti-fertility response" in humans. The government now says that contaminated vaccines have been used up and replaced by uncontaminated batches. In 1995, a UNICEF anti-tetanus program in the Philippines was halted by a Supreme Court order after Catholic Women's League showed that the vaccine included B-hCG, which can permanently prevent women from sustaining a pregnancy. By that time, three million women, aged 12 to 45 had been vaccinated. Health care workers involved in such programmes who become aware of the contaminants may encounter problems if they object. [Phillipines report -]

10 March, 2004
Assisted suicide bill moves to House of Lords committee

Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, which would legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia, has been referred to a select committee for study. [House of Lords Hansard, 10 March; News Report]

Assisted suicide increase in Oregon

42 terminally ill patients in Oregon resorted to physician assisted suicide in 2003, up from 38 in 2002. [The Guardian, 10 March]

Assisted suicide bill delayed in Hawaii

Although approved by the Judiciary Committee and supported by the American Civil Liberties Association, Planned Parenthood and 'right to die' groups, a bill to legalize assisted suicide in Hawaii has been withdrawn, apparently because there was concern about attempting to pass the bill in an election year. Opponents of the bill include The American Cancer Society, American Centre for Law and Justice of Hawaii, Hawaii Medical Association and the Catholic Church.

Maryland 'conscience clause' inadequate

Thomas More Law Center attorney Kim Daniels, appearing on behalf of the Maryland Catholic Conference, expressed opposition to Senate Bills 247 and 248, which would make morning-after pills available in drugstores without a doctor's prescription and without any medical supervision. In addition to medical concerns, Daniels pointed out that the bill's purported conscience clause would not prevent pharmacists from being forced to dispense the drugs. The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life through education, litigation, and related activities. It does not charge for its services. It depends on contributions from individuals, corporations and Foundations. It is recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization. You may reach the Thomas More Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit our website at

9 March, 2004
West Virginia legislating compulsory vaccination

Senate Bill 439 in West Virginia will deny parents the right to refuse vaccinations for their children. Religious exemptions will be abolished, and the law will extend to home schoolers. While some people object to vaccination for medical reasons, others object, for reasons of conscience, to the use of vaccines derived from induced abortions.

Plans to increase abortion in Poland

While the possibility that assisted suicide and euthanasia might be legalized in some countries raises the prospect of conflicts of conscience among health care workers, such conflicts can now be foreseen in Poland, where the governing party has suggested that abortion should be more widely available. [, 5 March]

8 March, 2004
Baby conceived to be tissue donor

The first Australian baby conceived and selected as a tissue donor will be born in August. In vitro fertilization and genetic testing were used to ensure that the child would be a suitable bone marrow donor for a brother with an incurable genetic disease.

5 March, 2004
Planned Parenthood affiliate encourages illegal abortions in Kenya

Josiah Onyango, medical officer of the Family Planning Association of Kenya (FPAK), and Godwin Mzenge, Director of FPAK, have admitted that their employees may perform abortions (illegal under Kenyan law) and then misrepresent the procedure in medical records. The disclosures were made to Norwegian journalists. [Dagen-01; Dagen-02] This type of activity can adversely affect conscientious objectors, since they may be expected to co-operate or at least remain silent when colleagues break the law.

Controversy in Nigeria over plans to depopulate country

Professor Eyitayo Lambo, Nigerian Minister of Health, has promised to pursue aggressive depopulation of the country, in accordance with the wishes of "key development partners". These include International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and US Agency for International Development (USAID). Depopulation in this largely Muslim country is to be accomplished by abortion and contraception. The agenda, announced after a 'Reproductive Health and Rights' summit in Abuja, was criticized by a Dr. Folarin Olowu. He warned against the threat posed to "unsuspecting Nigerians" by "external forces", and argued that poverty should be eliminated by transforming the country through progressive democracy. It was also sternly repudiated in an editorial by Sonnie Ekwowusi. [All Africa] The controversy indicates the probability that the Health Ministers's plans will generate conflicts of conscience among health care workers. Such problems have arisen in South Africa. (See the letters from Dr. Harvey Ward his survey, as well as a cultural antipathy to the procedure ( No Place for Abortion in African Traditional Life - Some Reflections) .

3 March, 2004
Attempt to reinstate euthanasia in Australia

Legislation that overturned the legalization of euthanasia in Australia's Northern Territory will be repealed if a bill to be proposed by the Democrats becomes law. [, 3 March]

1 March, 2004
California Supreme Court rules against freedom of conscience for Catholic Charities

In a 6-1 ruling, the Supreme Court of California has ruled that Catholic Charities must supply all 183 employees with insurance coverage for contraception, despite Catholic teaching that condemns contraception as gravely sinful. The court ruled that the organization does not deserve a religious exemption from the law because it employs workers of different religions, serves people of all backgrounds, and does not directly preach about Catholic doctrine. The Christian Medical Association is among the groups that have protested the ruling. [CMA News release]


26 February, 2004
Death by withdrawal of nutrition, hydration in United Kingdom

A 20 year old woman suffering from Parkinson's and the fatal brain disease leukodystrophy has advised her doctors that she wants to die. Her mother is considering the possibility of legal action to force her to have a gastronomy, so that she can receive food and medication by feeding tube. It is unlikely that such a case would succeed, as current law permits a patient to commit suicide by refusing food and water. On the other hand, terminally ill patients who do not want to die may not be able to prevent doctors from terminating assisted nutrition and hydration. According to Richard Gordon, QC, who is acting for 44 year old Leslie Burke, the physician's decision can override the wishes of the patient and family members. Leslie Burke suffers from a terminal degenerative brain condition called cerebellar ataxia. He has brought suit against the General Medical Council because its guidelines permit such decisions by doctors. Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, asserts that euthanasia by withholding nutrition and hydration has become commonplace, especially in the case of incompetent patients like Terri Schiavo of Florida. Health care professionals who object to this kind of procedure may find themselves in significant moral conflict when an order is made to withdraw assisted nutrition and hydration from a patient who is not near death from other causes.

The potential for conflict is illustrated by different reactions to proposed amendments to the government's draft mental incapacity bill. The British Medical Association is pleased with the amended version, now to be called the mental capacity bill, but the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, a pro-life group, complains that the amendments make "no significant changes to the bill's provisions for euthanasia by omission."

Wisconsin's governor describes conscientious convictions as "whims"

A conscience clause bill (AB 67 ) that has been the subject of some controversy even among supporters of freedom of conscience (see previous news item) has passed the Wisconsin Senate by a vote of 20 to 13. The bill now goes to the state governor, Jim Doyle, for signature. Governor Doyle may veto the bill. He has been quoted as saying that health care should not depend "on the whims of a health care provider." [News report]

Universal free in vitro fertilization recommended

Britain's National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended that the National Health Service should offer infertile women between 23 and 29 years old three cycles of in vitro fertilization at public expense, as well as screening for chlamydia and blocked fallopian tubes. The estimated annual cost of the proposal is £85 million. A government spokesman promised that at least one cycle of IVF would be available by April, 2005. Public funding of morally controversial procedures is likely to lead to an expectation that health care workers will facilitate such services, leading to increased pressure on conscientious objectors.

Increasing popularity of artificial reproductive technology is illustrated by a new website that offers to provide human eggs to infertile women for a 'subscription fee'. John Gonzalez, who founded the sperm-for-sale website called "Man Not Included", has now started "Woman Not Included" to supply human eggs to infertile women. He charges a subscription fee of £145 to £1,200 for each introduction to a donor, who anonymously donates her eggs at a fertility clinic. The recipient would then pay for in vitro fertilization. Donors are also expected to provide information about their medical and academic history, ethnicity and physical features.

21 February, 2004
Euthanasia contemplated on Guernsey

A committee that is to report next month to the government's advisory and finance committee has solicited the views of doctors on the island. Other people are also to be consulted.

20 February, 2004
Pharmacy chain apologizes for exercise of freedom of conscience

A 23 year old woman who was refused the morning-after pill by two pharmacists has received an apology from Boot's the Chemist pharmacy chain in the United Kingdom. The incident occurred in Sheffield, south Yorkshire. Two chemists refused to provide the drug for reasons of conscience, but it was supplied by another staff member. The woman complained that she was embarrassed in front of other customers at the store. The company is reviewing its procedures. Pharmacies in other parts of the world that have accommodated conscientious objectors have put up signs and used other methods to accommodate patients. Despite the fact that the pharmacists' professional body allows for limited freedom of conscience in the UK, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service criticised the pharmacists and demanded an investigation. [Sheffield Today, 20 February]

19 February, 2004
Immoral not to clone humans

Professor Ian Wilmut, the scientist who cloned Dolly the sheep, has been quoted as saying that it would be "immoral" not to clone human beings in order to combat genetic diseases, though he is opposed to cloning for reproductive purposes generally. The claim that it would sometimes be immoral to refuse to clone human beings illustrates how quickly a morally controversial procedure can begin to adversely affect conscientious objectors.

17 February, 2004

Wisconsin Bill AB 67 may come to a vote next week. It is supported by Wisconsin Right to Life (WRL news release), but not by Wisconsin Pro-lifeand Pharmacists for Life International (WPL news release), which prefer SB 21 and AB 63 because those bills include protection for pharmacists.

Investigation clears euthanasia advocate

A police investigation into the death of a euthanasia campaigner on the Isle of Man has concluded that the man died of natural causes, and was too ill to consume lethal medication brought to him by Dr. Michael Irwin. Irwin admitted having been involved in the deaths of other patients, and appears willing to continue the practice as part of a campaign to legalize euthanasia in the United Kingdom.

16 February, 2004
Sex selection for IVF

Controversy has arisen in North Carolina about a couple who used Microsort technology to conceive a girl. Selecting the sex of children has generally been frowned upon, and those with conscientious objections to the practice may find themselves in difficulty if they refuse to provide sex-selection service. [News item]

13 February, 2004
South African campaign

The Health Professionals Conscientious Objection Campaign has declared a 'victory' because the staff at a major hospital has refused to participate in abortion. Co-ordinator Philip Rosenthal notes that many smaller hospitals are refusing to do abortions, especially in rural areas. The activity is not surprising, since the legalization of abortion in South Africa failed to take into account the conscientious objections of many health care providers (See the letters from Dr. Harvey Ward his survey, as well as a cultural antipathy to the procedure ( No Place for Abortion in African Traditional Life - Some Reflections) . Unfortunately, opponents of freedom of conscience in health care will likely seize upon the Campaign's 'victory' declaration as proof that conscientious objection is really just a covert method of denying access to abortion. In the long run, this is likely to develop hostility toward objectors and invite coercive state intervention.

12 February, 2004
Three Texas pharmacists fired by Eckerd Corporation

Eckerd Corporation, a subsidiary of J.C. Penney Company Inc., has fired three Texas pharmacists who refused to fill a prescription for the potentially abortifacient morning after pill. The patient, who had complained of rape, had the prescription filled at a pharmacy across the street. A vice-president for Eckerd stated that the company made no exceptions for "moral, religious or ethical concerns" about prescriptions. 33 year old Gene Harr of Denton, Texas, said that he was unaware of the company policy when he declined to fill the prescription for religious reasons. You may express your concerns about the firing of the objecting pharmacists by contacting:

Wayne Harris
Chairman and CEO of Eckerd
c/o Tami Alderman
Manager, Community Relations
727-395-6380 (Office)
727-395-7934 (Fax)

Allen Questrom
Chairman of the Board and CEO of J.C. Penney.
JC Penney Company, Inc.
6501 Legacy Drive
Plano, TX 75024
(972) 431-1000

Korean scientists clone human embryo

A research team in Seoul, South Korea, cloned 30 embryos before extracting a single stem cell colony. The killing of the embryos to extract the stem cells adds to the moral controversy attached to the cloning process itself.

10 February, 2004
25% of New York City pharmacies don't carry MAP

A survey of pharmacies in New York has found that one quarter of them do not carry the morning after pill, and that none of those stores have complied with a legal requirement to post a sign to that effect. The reason for non-compliance is either unknown or unreported. Such signs actually minimize the likelihood of a clash between conscientious objectors and patients.

Honduran Bishops threaten excommunication for use of "Morning After" Pill

A statement by Catholic bishops in Honduras illustrates the moral conflict that can arise for health care workers who are expected by employers, patients or the state to supply a morally controversial product or service. Describing the morning-after pill as an abortifacient, the bishops reminded their people that complicity in abortion incurs the penalty of excommunication. The statement is likely to generate some controversy because the application of the term 'abortifacient' is governed differently in moral theology than in science, even though there may be agreement about the mechanism of action.

9 February, 2004
Pharmacist refuses morning-after pill in Manchester

According to news reports, a pharmacist who refused to provide the morning-after pill to a married woman in Stockport was a "devout Christian". The pharmacist advised the woman where she could go to obtain the pill, but the patient was nonetheless outraged that the pharmacist had refused to sell a 'legal product'. The pharmacist has been supported by the company, Asda, and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, since she advised the patient of alternative sources for the drug. Not all conscientious objectors are willing to refer patients in such cases.

6 February, 2004
UN wants Ethiopia to legalize abortion, publicly fund contraception

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is pressuring Ethiopia to decriminalize abortion and to publicly fund contraceptives [UN report]. Abortion is generally rejected in traditional African culture (See No Place for Abortion in African Traditional Life - Some Reflections) and the failure to acknowledge that has led to problems in South Africa. (See the letters from Dr. Harvey Ward his survey of doctors in Cape Town).
5 February, 2004
Ambiguous Swiss statement permits assisted suicide

Werner Stauffacher, president of the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences (SAMS), has said that, while assisted suicide is not part of "normal medical practice," it is comprehensible in some cases and may be allowed, subject to strict controls. The desire on the part of the Academy to become involved with assisted suicide apparently arises from a reluctance to refer patients to organizations that provide the service, like Dignitas and Exit . [News item]

4 February, 2004
Abortion controversy in Kenya

Officials of the Kenya Medical Association who made statements favouring abortion have been criticized by a group of their colleagues led by Dr Jean Kaggia, who say that they were not consulted on the issue. They compared legalization of abortion to legalization of murder. have criticised for supporting legalised abortion. (See No Place for Abortion in African Traditional Life - Some Reflections). The failure to acknowledge conscientious objectors has led to problems in South Africa. (See the letters from Dr. Harvey Ward his survey of doctors in Cape Town).


27 January, 2004
Wisconsin bill goes to vote

Wisconsin Assembly Bill 67, a protection of conscience measure for health care professionals and facilities, will come to a vote in a committee of the state Senate on 29 January. It passed the state Assembly by a wide margin.

Clinic sued for refusal to inseminate HIV+ couple

A Montreal fertility specialist who changed his mind about performing artificial insemination for an HIV-positive couple is being sued for $90,000.00 for discrimination. He reneged on his earlier agreement following consultation with an ethics committee, which advised him that he and the clinic would be open to lawsuits from an HIV-positive child. Elsewhere, IVF and genetic screening has been used to deliberately conceive children who have defects that are desired by the parents.

26 January, 2004
Draft 'truth in advertising' bill proposed

Children of God for Life has prepared a Fair Labeling and Informed Consent Act 2004 (FLICA) for consideration by the U.S. Congress. The bill would require that all pharmaceutical products - prescription or non-prescription drugs, vaccines or medical procedures that use fetal or embryonic cell lines from procured abortion or through IVF methods or human cloning to be labeled as such. The bill seeks to protect the right of conscience and religious freedom for anyone who wishes to abstain from using or dispensing these products in order to allow them to choose ethical alternatives.

Alternative vaccine source

Chiron Corporation is negotiating with Japan about importing and licensing a new rubella and MMR vaccine that is produced on non-aborted fetal cell lines. Children of God for Life states that Chiron Corp is the only US company that provides vaccines not derived from aborted fetal cell lines.

25 January, 2004
Ethicist endorses eugenic infanticide

Professor John Harris, a prominent member of the British Medical Association's ethics committee, has stated that infanticide is justified when a child has a genetic disorder that remained undetected during pregnancy. He dismissed the notion that there was any ethical difference between late term abortion and infanticide, though he would not set an upper age beyond which infanticide should not be carried out.

23 January, 2004
Abortion in Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Family Planning Association is involved in a legal appeal to establish abortion in Northern Ireland. Opposition to the procedure is reported to be widespread in the population. The failure to take such opposition into account when attempting to change laws or policies governing morally controversial procedures is particularly problematic from the perspective of conscientious objectors among health care workers.

21 January, 2004
Marty Report supports assisted suicide in Europe

The Marty Report on Euthanasia will be debated in the Council of Europe on 29 January, 2004. The report recommends that physicians not be prosecuted for participation in assisted suicide. The International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations (FIAMC) has already issued a protest against the report, expressing concern that physicians will be pressured to act unethically.

Fathers superfluous for IVF children

Mrs. Leather, the Chairman of the British Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, has questioned the need for IVF children to have fathers in their lives. She plans to have the law changed to eliminate a requirement for a physician to take into account the need of a child for a father, so that single and lesbian women can avail themselves of the procedure. This may adversely impact health care providers who are involved in in vitro fertilization, but whose moral convictions regarding the upbringing of children differ from Mrs. Leather's.

19 January, 2004
Sex-selection of children

A new 'Microsort' technology to select IVF embryos by sex is being tested by the Genetics and IVF Institute (GIVF) in Fairfax, Virginia, USA. The trial now involves 400 couples. Dye is used to mark sperm carrying more DNA, where are then sorted using a laser. The technique is one of numerous procedures collectively identified as preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), used in eugenic testing of IVF embryos. PGD is being used to identify embryos with genetic illnesses or defects in order to eliminate them. Microsort, if successful, will make it possible to choose the sex of a child. The production of IVF embryos for reproductive purposes usually involves the production of 'surplus' embryos, which, depending upon the law and the wishes of the parents, may be frozen, passed on to surrogates or adoptive mothers, used for research and/or ultimately killed. [Newsweek]

18 January, 2004
Doctor claims to have implanted cloned embryo

At a press conference in London, England, Dr. Panos Zavos of the Andrology Institute of America in Louisville, Kentucky claimed that he had implanted a cloned embryo in a woman. However, he refused to say where this had taken place, and had no evidence to support his assertions. He also discussed plans to divide an in vitro embryo into identical twins, with a view to bringing one to birth and freezing the other for spare body parts. Adverse reaction from the British government to the announcements was itself criticized by the Catholic Church in Scotland, on the grounds that such experimentation is quite legal on cloned human embryos less than 14 days old. Zavos' statements demonstrate that artificial reproductive technologies involve procedures to which many would object for reasons of conscience.

15 January, 2004
Committee to study legalization of assisted suicide in UK

A private member's bill drafted by Lord Joffe that would legalize assisted suicide will be investigated by a committee appointed by the House of Lords. While Lord Joffe claims that 80% of Britons support euthanasia and assisted suicide, opponents cite a survey that showed 74% of physicians would refuse to assist with suicide, and 56% believed that euthanasia could not be safely controlled. The April, 2003 survey also found that none of the palliative care specialists who responded agreed with euthanasia or assisted suicide. Legalization of the procedure without protection of conscience measures would have a serious adverse impact on most members of the medical profession.

6 January, 2004
Some Australian pharmacists refuse to dispense "morning-after pill"

The 'morning after pill' became legally available over the counter in Australia on 1 January. A number of pharmacists refuse to dispense the drug because it may sometimes have abortifacient effects. Others are refusing to dispense it for medical reasons. A representative of the pharmacists' guild complained that they had not had time to reflect on the ethical issues involved, but the government claims that they not only had months to think about it, but helped to develop guidelines for the practice.