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Protection of Conscience Project

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April-June, 2003

June

28 June, 2003
No evidence to support 72 hour window for morning-after pill

A study published in the June issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology noted only a 1% difference in the pregnancy rates of women who took the morning after pill within 72 hours and those who took it three to five days after intercourse. While the results of the survey may have been affected by small number of women who participated, the researchers assert that there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that the pill must be taken within 72 hours to have the desired effect. The study defined the beginning of 'pregnancy' as implantation rather than conception, thus avoiding the issue that is usually foremost for conscientious objectors. However, the extension of the operative window for the drug by two days and lack of evidence to support the 72 hour limit ought to relieve some of the pressure to supply or refer for the drug on the grounds that it is urgently required.

27 June, 2003
Sex-Selective IVF

A 33 year old British woman who has four boys but who wants to have a girl has gone to Spain for an in vitro fertilization process that will kill male embryos and select female embryos for implantation. Sex selection is prohibited in Britain except in the case of genetically transmitted disease, but the woman asserts that "freedom of choice" ought to be extended to sex selection as well. She points out that abortions in Britain take place up to the 24th week of gestation, and that it is inconsistent to prohibit 'gender choice' when the embryo is only four or five days old. [BBC] The case illustrates the fact that the approval of IVF in some situations and not in others may involve moral decision making in public policy. It also demonstrates how easily ethical goal posts can be moved, which can cause moral conflicts for workers in the field.

Concern in UK over potential for euthanasia

A Draft Mental Incapacity Bill introduced by the British government is generating concern that incapacitated patients may be legally killed by dehydration and starvation, upon the direction of attorneys or court appointed deputies. The bill is to be considered in committee and a report is expected in October. [BBC, SPUC]

25 June, 2003
UK government proposes universal eugenic screening

Despite what Health secretary John Reid described as "very real ethical and social concerns", the government of the United Kingdom is proposing to screen all newborns and provide eugenic prenatal tests to identify Down Syndrome infants. [Financial Times, 25 June] The normalization of eugenic screening is likely to create the expectation that health care workers will participate in the procedures, causing problems for those who object to it.

24 June, 2003
Coercive legislation vetoed by Governor in Hawaii

Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle vetoed Senate Bill 658, which would have forced even objecting denominational hospitals to provide the potentially abortificaient 'morning-after pill' to rape complainants, or face $5,000.00 fines and revocation or suspension of institutional licenses.

23 June, 2003
New Belgian government plans to force euthanasia upon hospitals

In addition to extending Belgium's assisted suicide law to include those under 18, political leaders assembling a coalition government plan to force all hospitals to provide euthanasia teams. The move is reported to have been sparked by the refusal of some Catholic hospitals to allow euthanasia on their premises. [Expatica]

20 June, 2003
Compromise worked out in New York

A bill that will require New York hospitals to dispense the potentially abortifacient 'morning-after pill' has been amended so that the drug will not have to be dispensed to women who may already be pregnant. As a result, the New York State Catholic Conference withdrew its objection to the legislation. A spokesman for the Conference explained that Catholic hospitals already dispense the pill when there is no evidence that conception has occurred.

19 June, 2003
Assisted suicide and euthanasia in Switzerland

A study by the University of Zurich suggests that Switzerland had the highest rate of assisted suicide in Europe, and a substantial number of cases of euthanasia. About 500 of 60,000 deaths in the German speaking part of the country each year are assisted suicides. The news article about the study distinguishes between what it terms "direct active euthanasia" (deliberate lethal drug overdoses - illegal in Switzerland), "indirect active euthanasia" ("giving the patient a palliative that could lead to death" - legal) and "passive euthanasia" (withdrawing treatment in order to cause death - legal). Of 3,350 deaths studied by the university in German speaking Switzerland, half were cases of "active" or "passive" euthanasia, with the latter accounting for about 1/3 of the cases.

The report illustrates the problem caused by terminology. Most people who object to euthanasia do not consider it to include the administration of pain relieving drugs that may have the secondary effect of shortening life. On the other hand, they would define deliberate withdrawal of treatment in order to cause death as euthanasia, and reject the qualifier 'passive'. Finally, they would not define euthanasia to include the withdrawal of extraordinary treatment that is burdensome rather than beneficial. The failure to make these distinctions in studies and reports can create the impression that euthanasia is widespread, and lead to suggestions that the purportedly widespread practice should be legalized. In such circumstances, objectors may find themselves increasingly pressured to participate in what they judge to be morally abhorrent practices. [News report]

18 June, 2003
Controversy over failure to resuscitate

Surgeon David Shields has resigned from Oldchurch Hospital in East London, claiming that the staff refused to resuscitate an elderly patient. He rejects the hospital's claim that he had agreed to a 'do not resuscitate' order and should not have operated on the patient. [The Times] The incident demonstrates the potential for conflicts of conscience in decisions about withdrawing or refusing treatment.

17 June, 2003
Issues of conscience dividing physicians

The Christian Medical Association has issued a news release claiming that physicians are quitting the American Medical Association "in droves" because of its support for ethically controversial procedures. The CMA notes that the number of doctors in the country belonging to the AMA has declined from about 90% in the 1960's to a current level of about 40%.

13 June, 2003
Abortion expansion planned by South African government

The South African Department of Health plans to force all hospitals with 24 hour maternity service to provide abortions. The proposed bill is called the Choice on termination of pregnancy amendment bill, 2003. The government appears to be ignoring the fact that significant problems have been caused by its original abortion law because it failed to take into account widespread conscientious objection to abortion among health care workers. [See South Africa Changes Abortion Law (1996-97); Are State Doctors in the Western Cape willing to implement the Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1996? An opinion survey conducted in the Western Cape in November 1997; Traumatised Health Care Professionals Forced to Take Part in Abortion Procedures]

The bill would also allow all nurses to perform abortions, which is likely to make things increasingly difficult for nurses who object to the procedure. [See No Place for Abortion in African Traditional Life - Some Reflections (2002)] An additional but current problem for objectors is the use of the abortifiacient drug cytotec (misoprostol). Physicians or health care workers prescribe the drug to begin an abortion, but do not always make themselves available to complete it. The patient may have to go to a hospital with an incomplete abortion, causing significant problems for health care workers who object to the procedure. Ironically, beginning an abortion and sending the woman to the hospital to have it completed was once condemned by the medical profession; the elimination of such practices was often given as a reason for the legalization of abortion. It may be appropriate to consider the present practice a form of abandonment of the patient when the attending physician fails to ensure, in advance, that willing and competent personnel are available to complete an abortion he has started with the drug.

11 June, 2003
Repression of conscience being legislated in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Abortion Rights Action League is supporting a bill that would force hospitals to supply the potentially abortifacient 'morning-after' pill. not only to rape complainants, but to any woman concerned that she might be pregnant. The bill would apply to denominational hospitals, such as the Catholic Saints Memorial Medical Center in Lowell. A spokeswoman for the Rape Crisis Services in Lowell, Mass., specifically identified Catholic hospitals as a target for the bill. [Lowell Sun]

Legalization of euthanasia sought in China

A man who convinced a doctor to give a lethal injection to his mother, who had cirrhosis of the liver, wants to die as his mother did. Wang Mingcheng of Shaanxi Province was found not guilty of murder in the Supreme People's Court in 1991. He now has cancer and says that he "cannot bear the suffering." [China Daily] The policy of coercion that has been applied to enforce China's 'one-child policy', which affects both health care workers and patients, is likely to be applied to euthanasia if the procedure is legalized. [See Chinese health care workers and the 'one-child' policy]

Concerns about minority of experts in Japan

Ryuichi Ida, a Kyoto University law professor who specializes in international law, warns that Japanese do not understand bioethics and that discussion is controlled by "a tiny minority of experts". He is concerned about the government's 'biobank' gene data project and has called for more public discussion of the issues. [The Japan Times] Similar concerns are raised in several documents on the Project website. See Is Bioethics Ethical?; Which Medical Ethics for the 21st Century?; Establishment Bioethics; The Bioethics Mess.

10 June, 2003
Harvesting tissue from abortion in Australia

Crucell, the Dutch company that was unsuccessful in securing tissue from abortions in New Zealand, is reported to be trying to obtain it in Australia through Parexel International, a Sydney organization. The normalization of the harvesting and use of organs and tissue from aborted infants is likely to cause problems health care workers and others who object to such activity. [Wholesale enterprise supplies researchers (Canada & U.S.A.) (1999)]

9 June, 2003
Euthanasia activism in U.K. and Australia

Lord Joffe's private member's bill to legalize euthanasia for patients suffering from terminal or incurable illness was debated for seven hours in the United Kingdom's House of Lords. The bill received second reading and passed into committee, a procedure which is apparently customary and does not necessarily signify the support of the House. It is reported to have been stiffly opposed by peers from all parties, despite widespread media support. [The Telegraph] Among those seeking such legislation is Lesley Close, whose brother travelled to Switzerland for assisted suicide at a clinic run by the organization "Dignitas". On the other hand, hospice and palliative care unit chaplains are opposed to the bill, insisting that patients should receive 'holistic palliative care.' [Church Times] The BBC is running a 'Kill or Cure' series on the subject, and will be broadcasting the video diary of a 'right-to-die' advocate.

Meanwhile, in Australia, The Advertiser reported that over the past seven years there have been five private members bills on euthanasia in the South Australia Parliament; one is now at the committee stage. It also noted that euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke was planning to display a suicide machine at a workshop in Adelaide.

In the absence of sound protection of conscience legislation, success by groups seeking legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia would likely cause significant problems for health care workers who do not wish to participate in the procedures.

5 June, 2003
Canadian MP wants abortion on demand

Svend Robinson of the New Democratic Party has introduced a motion asking the government to increase the proportion of hospitals providing abortion from 17% to 33% in two years, and adopt measures to see that it is available "on demand". Robinson is attempting to use the Canada Health Act, which is the basis for Canada's state health care system, to force hospitals to provide the morally controversial procedure. Robinson also advocates legalization of euthanasia; he was present when a woman suffering from motor neuron disease was killed by lethal injection in British Columbia several years ago. He refused to disclose the name of the doctor who gave the injection. [See Chief Justice favours assisted suicide, willing to order assistance]

Wisconsin bill passes

Wisconsin Assembly Bill 67 has cleared the Assembly and passed to the state Senate. Amendments that had been proposed in committee were rejected by the Assembly. [See previous item: Wisconsin pro-life groups at odds over protection of conscience legislation; Wisconsin committee approves protection of conscience bill]

May

30 May, 2003
House of Lords to debate euthanasia bill

Lord Joffe's Patient (Assisted Dying) Bill is to be debated in the House of Lords in England on 6 June. Catholic peers have been urged to challenge the bill by Peter Smith, Archbishop of Cardiff and Chairman of the Catholic Bishops' Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship.

Nutrition and hydration to be withdrawn from Australian woman

The Supreme Court of the Australian state of Victoria has ruled that tube feeding is medical treatment that can be withdrawn from of a 68 year old woman who suffers from a fatal form of dementia known as Pick's Disease. Dr. John Fleming, director of the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute and an advisor to the Project, warned that the decision "potentially affects all the elderly, handicapped, and unconscious persons who rely upon such assistance." The Project has issued a news release on the decision, pointing out that it also has serious implications for health care workers. [The Age; Tube Feeding: Medical Treatment or Basic Care?; News Release]

Controversy in Wisconsin continues

An attempt to restore protection of conscience provisions in AB67 has been defeated in the Assembly. [See previous items: Wisconsin pro-life groups at odds over protection of conscience legislation; Wisconsin committee approves protection of conscience bill]

28 May, 2003
'Excessive paperwork' faulted for failure to report euthanasia

The Netherlands' euthanasia authority (NOS) has found that only 54% of the cases of euthanasia in 2001 were properly documented, up from 41% in 1995 and 18% in 1991. The poor reporting record is blamed on 'excessive paperwork'. Although the number of patients killed through euthanasia and assisted suicide appears to have leveled off in 2001, physicians in the Netherlands "end the lives of 900 people without the required request." [News Report] There have been reports of pressure applied to physicians who are unwilling to provide this service. [Refusal of hospitals to perform euthanasia considered 'problematic'; Doctor in the Lions' Den]

21 May, 2003
Company seeks tissue from abortion

The Dutch company Crucell will be unable to use tissue obtained through abortions in New Zealand to develop stem cell lines or make vaccines. The general manager of the Capital Coast Health Board, which withdrew its support for the bid, noted that New Zealand had no guidelines on the use of foetal tissue for research. It is not clear if the Board will change its position if guidelines are established. The use of vaccines or other products derived through abortion creates conflicts for some patients and consumers as well as health care workers. [New Zealand Herald]

19 May, 2003
Use of morning-after pill triples in United States

A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates that the number of American women using the potentially abortifacient morning-after pill has tripled in the past three years. The College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women be given prescriptions for the drug in advance. Such developments underscore the increasing pressure being felt by pharmacists who object to dispensing the drug for reasons of conscience.

16 May, 2003
"Truth in advertising" suggested in Australia

Independent Tasmanian Senator Brian Harradine has proposed that Australian drug companies should have to state whether or not their products have been developed using human embryos. The Therapeutic Goods Administration has been instructed to consider and report on the suggestion. [Sydney Morning Herald] It is not uncommon for companies to identify their products as not having been tested on animals, for the benefit of those who object to animal testing. It does not seem unreasonable to demonstrate the same respect for those who object to the use of human embryos in research or product development.

Only non-religious belief or morality allowed

Vatican opposition to granting UN status to the National Abortion Federation (United States and Canada) has been criticized by France. The French representative claimed that the decision should not be made on moral or religious grounds. However, the acceptance of the Federation would require the presupposition that there is nothing morally objectionable about its activities - itself a moral judgement. [For commentary on this type of argument, see There Are No Secular Unbelievers and The Illusion of Moral Neutrality ]

British appeal court permits embryo design

Britain's Court of Appeal has approved a plan by parents to produce a baby through in vitro fertilization and genetic screening to serve as a bone marrow donor for their four year old son. They hope to cure the boy of beta-thalassaemia using bone marrow from the donor sibling. Producing genetically 'made to order' babies in order to supply tissue is ethically contentious. Normalization of the practice may adversely impact health care workers who object to such procedures. [BBC]

Assisted suicide bills in United States

Bills to legalize physician-assisted suicide have been introduced this year in Arizona, Hawaii and Vermont; a bill in North Carolina would ban it. [American Medical Association]

15 May, 2003
Physicians oppose assisted suicide in United Kingdom

Continued pressure to legalize assisted suicide in the United Kingdom is on a collision course with the majority of British doctors. It is reported that 74% of physicians surveyed would refuse to participate in assisted suicide even if it were legalized. [BBC]

Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) to fund embryo research

With the apparent approval of Health Canada, CIHR President Dr. Alan Bernstein has announced that the Institute is unwilling to wait for parliament to pass regulatory legislation and will fund stem cell research that will result in the destruction of human embryos. In the absence of legislation there are no legal restrictions on any form of embryo research in Canada. Canada also has no laws to protect researchers who may object to some forms of embryo research for reasons of conscience. [National Post]

14 May, 2003
Conscientious objection among military physicians

It is reported that no military physicians were willing to perform abortions after President Clinton allowed abortions in military facilities from 1993 to 1996. This needs to be taken fully into account in the formulation of any policy applied to military health care workers.

Wisconsin committee approves protection of conscience bill

By a 6-2 vote, the Wisconsin Assembly Labor Committee approved Assembly Bill 63, which will now go to the full Assembly for approval. The bill offers protection to pharmacists who object to dispensing drugs or devices that they reasonably believe would be used to cause death. [News Release]

Euthanasia bill in United Kingdom

Lord Joffe has introduced a bill in the United Kingdom's House of Lords that would legalise euthanasia, while the House of Keys on the Isle of Man has appointed a committee to study similar legislation proposed by two parliamentarians there. The Isle of Man is a crown dependency in the Irish sea.

12 May, 2003
Court challenge looms in Hawaii

A Catholic hospital system could challenge a bill now before the governor of Hawaii which would require hospitals to provide abortifacient morning-after pills to rape victims. The St Francis healthcare system says the law would force them to go against their religious beliefs. Governor Linda Lingle expressed surprise that the bill did not exempt religious organisations. The measure would allow for hospitals to be fined $5,000 for not co-operating and, if they offended twice, their licence could be revoked. [Honolulu Advertiser, 12 May]

10 May, 2003
Euthanasia campaign in Britain

The Voluntary Euthanasia Society's poster campaign calling for legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia is being supported by the widower of Mrs. Diane Pretty. Mrs. Pretty died a year ago from motor neurone disease following an unsuccessful attempt to challenge the existing law.

9 May, 2003
Human rights commission advocates euthanasia

A former high court judge who now heads the human rights commission of West Bengal, India, wants euthanasia legalized when requested by patients, if relatives and doctors agree. [Hindustan Times, 9 May] Objecting health care workers are particularly vulnerable to coercion when euthanasia is advocated as a 'right'.

6 May, 2003
Public funding proposed for fertility treatments in Japan

The Daily Yomiuri reports that the Japanese government plans to combat a falling birth-rate by funding fertility treatments for married couples. The funding would include morally controversial procedures like in vitro fertilization, creating an expectation that health care workers will provide the service.

Repressive measure stalled in Nevada

Hundreds of e-mail messages from advocates for freedom of conscience and religion have caused the Nevada senate to table a bill that would have forced pharmacists to fill prescriptions for morally controversial drugs. Planned Parenthood championed the bill because it wanted to prevent pharmacists from exercising the religious freedom that one normally associates with western democracies.

5 May, 2003
Australian court asked to rule on nutrition and hydration

The supreme court in the Australian state of Victoria is being asked to rule on whether feeding and hydration is medical treatment or care. The distinction is important because laws in common law countries generally allow withdrawal or refusal of medical treatment. When nutrition and hydration are classified as 'treatment', it is legally permissible to cause the death of patients by starvation and dehydration, which some health care workers find morally repugnant. The patient at the centre of the case is a 68 year old woman with dementia who continues to live because she is being fed artificially in a nursing home. [Courier-Mail, 5 May]

1 May, 2003
Public funding sought for artificial reproduction

A decision by an English appeals court in 1997 that a woman could use her dead husband's sperm to conceive a child now appears to have become a precedent for a claim by another woman. A widow in Hampshire, who has two sons, complains that public funding is not available to assist her in using her dead husband's sperm to produce a daughter through in vitro fertilization. The case illustrates the kind of expectations that can be generated when health care is delivered chiefly by the state. Health care workers in such a system may find themselves expected to participate in morally controversial procedures because they have been 'paid for' through taxation and guaranteed as 'rights'.

April

28 April, 2003
Euthanasia activism in Hungary

While two thirds of Hungarians are said to favour the legalisation of euthanasia, the country's constitutional court has rejected a request that mercy-killing not be treated as manslaughter. If the report of such broad public support for euthanasia is accurate, the possibility that euthanasia might be legalized should be of special concern to health care workers who object to euthanasia and assisted suicide for reasons of conscience.

Euthanasia in Netherlands said to be down

Over 1800 patients were killed by euthanasia in the Netherlands in 2002, down from over 2000 in 2001 and 2100 in 2000. The accuracy of reports filed by doctors has been a subject of contention.

28 April, 2003
Kenyan constitutional conference to start

The Catholic Church in Kenya is encouraging Catholic participants to resist legalization of abortion in the country's constitutional conference scheduled for 28 April, 2003. Failure to consider opposition to abortion among health care workers has led to problems in South Africa. (See previous report on Kenya, with remarks on the situation in South Africa)

Parthenogenesis used to produce human embryos

Scientists in Gaithersburg, Maryland, claim to have produced human embryos by parthenogenesis. They chemically stimulated a the human oocyte and caused it to transform into an embryo which survived until the blastocyst stage. The process is intended to be used to produce human embryos as a source of stem cells. The article claims that parthenogenesis avoids ethical concerns surrounding embryonic stem cell research; that opinion is sharply contested. [Study]

25 April, 2003
Arizona governor vetoes conscience protection

The governor of Arizona vetoed Senate Bill 1089, which had been passed in order to ensure that non-profit religious corporations or groups would not be forced to violate their beliefs by being forced to provide contraceptive drugs to employees.

Hawaiian legislature suppresses freedom of conscience

The Hawaiian House of Representatives and Senate have passed a bill to force hospitals to provide the potentially abortifacient 'morning after pill' to rape complainants who request it. No exemptions were allowed for denominational institutions. Failing to provide the information demanded by the act or failing to provide the drug can be punished by a $5,000.00 fine for a first offence. Later violations can lead to suspension or revocation of licences to operate.

23 April, 2003
Wisconsin pro-life groups at odds over protection of conscience legislation

Pro-life groups are divided over Wisconsin Assembly Bill 67. The bill was primarily supported by Wisconsin Right to Life, though Pro-life Wisconsin, a different group, and Pharmacists for Life International both expressed support for it in its original form. The original bill was 'procedure specific', in that it ensured freedom of conscience with respect to six explicitly defined activities. Five of the six defined activities involved direct or indirect participation in causing the death of human individuals; the sixth, sterilization procedures, did not. The original bill made no reference to contraception, so that no protection was afforded those with moral or religious objections to contraception.

However, the bill was amended by its sponsor to specifically exclude the possibility of protection for conscientious objectors with respect to contraceptive drugs and devices as defined in Wisconsin Statutes, Chapter 450.155(1)(a): "Contraceptive article" means any drug, medicine, mixture, preparation, instrument, article or device of any nature used or intended or represented to be used to prevent a pregnancy.

Why exclude protection of conscience with respect to contraceptives in a bill that did not purport to provide it in the first place?

The reason appears to be that a number of drugs or devices that are marketed as contraceptives do not always prevent conception, but sometimes prevent the implantation of a human embryo. Pharmacists and other health care workers who object to causing the death of a human embryo may object to dispensing drugs or devices that have this effect. In its original form, AB67 could have been interpreted to provide for freedom of conscience for these people. The amendment appears to have been introduced to exclude that possibility. As a result, Pro-life Wisconsin and Pharmacists for Life International withdrew their support for AB67, and PFLI publicly rebuked Wisconsin Right to Life and the bill's sponsor for moving the amendment.

An ironic consequence is that the amended bill continues to protect those who would not participate in the destruction of a human embryo in vitro, but not those who would object to the destruction of a human embryo in utero. In any case, from the outset, nothing in the bill would have secured freedom of conscience for those who oppose contraception per se.

Conscientious objection in Mexico potentially unlawful

It is not clear whether or not legislators in Mexico have actually made conscientious objection a criminal offence by passing a law that makes it an offence to "hinder women's access" to information about "reproductive health", which is typically interpreted to mean abortion and contraception.

14 April, 2003
New Zealand physician expresses concern about Mifepristone

After New Zealand's High Court ruled that women need not remain in a clinic after taking the abortifacient mifepristone (formerly RU486) the medical director at Lyndhurst Hospital in Christchurch reminded the public that chemical abortions are a lengthier process than surgical abortions, and that a certain number of women who take the drug will have to have a surgical abortions anyway. [News item][News item] What has been overlooked is the probability that physicians who find abortion morally abhorrent will be confronted by women with incomplete abortions who expect them to finish surgically what one of their colleagues has begun chemically, even if the child might be saved by conservative case management. The Project has received reports that this has become a problem elsewhere.

12 April, 2003
Human cloning proposed for research purposes

The Scotsman reports that Professor Ian Wilmut of the Roslin Institute in Scotland plans to request permission to clone a patient who has motor neuron disease, and then destroy the cloned embryo to extract stem cells for the purpose of research. Existing ethical controversy concerning the use of vaccines derived from aborted fetuses illustrates demonstrates the probability that research cloning will produce long-term, ongoing conflicts for those who object to such procedures. [The Scotsman, 12 April, 2003]

11 April, 2003
New York City council demands 'morning-after pill' be dispensed

Under the terms of a bylaw passed by New York city council over the veto of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hospitals that have contracts with the city must provide the potentially abortifacient 'morning-after pill' to patients complaining of rape. It is not clear to what extent the bylaw will impact hospitals run by groups that are opposed to abortion. A second bylaw requires pharmacies to post notices if they do not carry the 'morning after pill'. Whatever the intent of the bylaw, it may actually reduce the possibility of a conflict between pharmacists and patients.

9 April, 2003
Majority of Britons said to favour destruction of embryos for research

70% of people surveyed in Britain are said to support destructive research on embryos in order to study human fertility and find treatments for serious diseases. The survey was jointly commissioned by several organizations. If the survey results are accurate, and if they can be applied to health care professions, 30% of health care workers may find themselves under pressure to participate in procedures that they find morally objectionable.

8 April, 2003
English Court of Appeal approves eugenic production of babies for tissue donation

A family in England may now produce in vitro embryos and use eugenic screening to identify a suitable bone marrow donor, who will be brought to term to provide a transplant for their four year old child. It is not clear whether genetically unsuitable embryos will be frozen, destroyed or offered for experimental research. The procedure has been approved by an appeal court ruling that overturned a lower court judgement. [BBC News]

7 April, 2003
Nevada assembly prefers business over morality

The Nevada Assembly has rejected a protection of conscience amendment in a bill that is intended to suppress religious freedom among pharmacists in the state. The bill is supported by Planned Parenthood, which wants to force pharmacists to dispense contraceptive and abortifacient drugs even if they have religious or moral objections to doing so. Assemblyman David Goldwater, of Las Vegas claimed that refusing to dispense drugs could "put peoples' heath at risk". Remarkably, Goldwater asserted that this purported health risk was acceptable if it resulted from a business decision not to carry drugs rather than a moral decision to refuse to dispense them. His argument was supported by Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, also of Las Vegas,and a Planned Parenthood representative. They did not explain why it was acceptable to endanger someone's health for economic reasons.

The Minority Leader in the Assembly, Lynn Hettrick, rejected freedom of conscience for pharmacists because, in his view, the physician, not the pharmacist, makes the decision that the drug should be taken. The same argument could be used to force pharmacists to dispense drugs for assisted suicide, euthanasia, and execution by lethal injection. The protective amendment had been moved by Assemblyman Joe Hardy of Boulder City, a physician. [Review Journal][Kaiser Report]

New York permits cloning for medical experiments

The New York State Assembly has passed a bill that will allow cloning and gestation of human beings as long as they are killed before birth. This was accomplished by defining somatic cell nuclear transfer as 'reproductive cloning' when it is intended to result in the birth of a child, and 'therapeutic cloning' when intended to produce an embryo for research or treatment. The bill, called The Reproductive Cloning Prohibition and Research Protection Act, is described as a "moral outrage" in a news release from the New York State Catholic Conference. While the act purports to 'protect' research, it includes no protective provisions for those who do not want to participate in human cloning.

4 April, 2003
New York Supreme Court approves damages for birth of defective in vitro child

The New York Supreme Court has ruled that a child suffering from cystic fibrosis, conceived by in vitro fertilization, may not sue for wrongful life. However, the court upheld the right of parents to sue a fertility centre and hospital for punitive damages on the basis of reckless conduct. The decision naturally encourages eugenic practices, though this may not be a significant issue for those now involved with in vitro technology. On the other hand, continued judicial insistence upon a eugenic 'standard of care' has broader implications that may indirectly impact conscientious objectors. ("Parents, not child, may seek damages over in vitro fertilization," New York Law Journal, 4/4/03)

3 April, 2003
American senators attempt to re-write science

Senators Hatch, Feinstein, Specter, Kennedy, Harkin, and Miller of the United States are attempting to ignore the moral controversy surrounding human cloning by defining it out of existence. Their Bill S303 purports to prohibit human cloning, but defines it as "implanting or attempting to implant the product of nuclear transplantation into a uterus or the functional equivalent of a uterus." The bill defines 'nuclear transplantation' as "transferring the nucleus of a human somatic cell into an oocyte from which the nucleus or all chromosomes have been or will be removed or rendered inert"- a description of cloning by somatic cell transfer. In effect, cloning will be permitted to produce human embryos as long as the cloned embryos are not implanted, and those involved in cloning embryos for research will be able to claim that what they are doing is not 'really' (ie, 'legally) cloning. Legislation or policy of this type is particularly troublesome for conscientious objectors, who find themselves accused of being 'unscientific' because they refuse to accept such utilitarian re-definitions.

Vatican publishes lexicon

The Pontifical Council for the Family has published an 868 page document containing an explanation of 78 phrases and expressions commonly used by lobbyists, legislators and officials involved in international meetings. The document is intended to expose the actual meanings that are often concealed by the terms. The document is now available only in Italian.

1 April, 2003
Ethical stem cell bank started in Russia

Russia has opened its first ethical stem cell bank. A stem cell bank opened in Russia bank will allow parents to store their children's umbilical cord blood for up to 15 years. Umbilical cord blood is rich in stem cells and has been shown to be therapeutically productive. The opening of the bank is a reminder that moral controversy can often be avoided without causing problems for patients.