Saturday, October 28, 2006

Sunday Times reports on Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynacecologists proposal to treat people as though they never existed

This is utterly horrifying and shouldn't go unrecorded: The Sunday Times reports that the RCOG has drawn up guidelines recommending that "babies born alive at less than 22 weeks gestation should be treated as if they had never existed, even if they breathe, move or their heart beats."

Ultrasound pioneer Professor Stuart Campbell is quoted as saying: “If the foetus is making respiratory efforts, its heart is beating and it is moving its limbs then it is born alive. This seems like trying to deny the truth of what is happening”.

The Royal College story stinks on so many levels - the Orwellian distortion of the truth, the insult to the intelligence of every person in our democracy (democracy where we are supposed not to receive the state falsified line but to know the truth) that a professional body can deny basic biology, the human rights abuse of creating non-persons, the cover up of a crime (infanticide) for these children that die in hospital, and the abuse of the professional medical code of ethics they represent.

Where is the public, parliamentary and media outcry? Isn't this a more urgent cause then possible risks and dangers of ID cards that everyone gets so worked up about?

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

How complicated would it be for the news reporters to report that President Bush supports adult and umbilical cord stem cell research? And in fact as well as being objectionable, embryonic stem cell research has so far lagged behind adult stem cell breakthroughs and achieved NOTHING to date? and that if you want cures for diabetes, heart disease etc you should back the prolife case for adult stem cell research and channel all funding into adult stem cell research and prohibit embryonic stem cell research?

As I have said many times before, I'm fed up of the inaccuracy in the newspapers whenever stem cell research is reported, and I'm fed up of chronicling the mistakes in articles on stem cell research. How difficult would it be for the newspapers to report the facts?

First of all, the headlines and full articles never properly distinguish between embryonic stem cell research and non-embryonic sources of stem cells. The headline always implies that those who are opposed to stem cell research are against curing diseases and lines up President Bush against cures, along with prolifers, against people like Tony Blair who is reported this week as backing "stem cell research". It fails to mention that we are not at all against stem cell research but only against embryonic stem cell research. I would give my own bone marrow, blood or other non-vital organs (like skin cells or fat) for research if that would help and I cannot understand why the same organisations that enthusiastically back embryo research are against widespread national umbilical cord stem cell banking.

Not only is it personally irritating to those of us who strongly support adult stem cell research but are being branded as anti-science, but this is the worst sort of inaccuracy in journalism. It is a basic inaccuracy that is endlessly repeated in the newspapers which should not be recurring time after time. It fuels misinformation. It distorts the debate. It misleads the public. It stimulates support for embryo research as though it is the panacea for all ills, and as though it is the only position any one pro-science can take, which is not justified by the basic facts of embryonic and adult stem cell research. We should not conduct our public debates and journalism on the basis of half-truths and misinformation. Laws should not be made as a result of myths when the scientific fact that embryonic stem cells have caused cancer and would be rejected by the immune system is clear for all to see. Vast amounts of taxpayers money should not be ploughed into funding nonsense research. However anti-prolife you are, we should all agree that human life should not be destroyed when there is a perfectly wonderful and more effective means of treating patients using stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood or adult tissue.

It generates anti-americanism against President Bush who has massively increased funding for umbilical cord banking. Instead of reporting the facts accurately, the newspapers make the prolife pro-adult stem cell research harder to argue simply by leaving it completely out. It is bloody unfair. And Blair, we shouldn't let you get away with presenting yourself as pro-science when you back embryonic stem cell research in order to score headlines, and the reality is that patients would be better off if you backed adult stem cell research only.

Take this article in the Observer today for example, entitled Blair to defy Bush over stem cells: PM will publicly back California's research into disease treatment despite White House's strong opposition What a load of nonsense!


1. No where in the article does it explain that stem cell research is an umbrella term and that adult stem cell research and umbilical cord stem cell research are perfectly wonderful alternatives to embryonic stem cell research

2. It points out the moral objection to embryonic stem cell research without pointing out that there are strong scientific objections to embryonic stem cell research, ie. the problem that it might not work (cancer and immune rejection and getting hold of sufficient cells, and genetic instablity, and exploitation of women to acquire enough eggs)

3. It implies that opposition to embryonic stem cell research is effectively opposition to researching and finding cures. How different the entire article would be and its impact on public opinion if the article was to state that President Bush is very pro-adult stem cell research and the headline was pro-stem cell research just against embryo research.

4. This sentence is wrong on several counts: "Pro-life and religious groups oppose stem cell research because one source of the cells is human embryos created during fertility treatment and subsequently destroyed." - Firstly, prolifers DO NOT OPPOSE STEM CELL RESEARCH. WE SUPPORT STEM CELL RESEARCH!!!!!!! [adult and non-embryonic] The Catholic Church in Korea was opposed to cloning embryos but it provided FUNDING FOR ADULT STEM CELL RESEARCH which was actually much more useful than anything Blair and the pro-embryo research lobby have done. Moreover any one following the debate knows that the embryo researh lobby want to create and destroy embryos for stem cells. They aren't left over from IVF, and even if the embryos were discarded after IVF why would that make it right anyway?

One interesting point in the Observer article today is that Downing Street included an internal memo about the disappointing progress of the UK Stem Foundation. Not surprising to anyone who knows that the real progress in medical research is with adult stem cells, not embryonic stem cell research at all.

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Superb article in the Daily Mail asks why Britain has skyhigh abortions and unprecedented levels of IVF

At last! An article that points outthe absurdity of skyhigh abortion rates and high IVF failure rates. Why can't the government join the dots? Instead of incoherent proabortion and proIVF policies, the Government should urgently address why women have abortions. If women are forced by circumstances to have abortions then that is totally unacceptable, and if it is a lifestyle choice, they why can't these babies be given for adoption?

At the same time, there should be a much greater preventative measures to treat infertility. Contrary to what Professor Ledger says, there is plenty of evidence that abortion increases the likelihood of infertility. Why aren't women told? Why are the facts withheld from them? And what kind of policy takes eggs from younger women, subjecting them to unpleasant and dangerous egg harvesting programmes, to give them to older women?

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Friday, June 30, 2006

Good news! The British Medical Association votes against supporting euthanasia, reversing it's undemocratic policy last year

I was delighted to see that the British Medical Association (BMA) has voted to reverse its support for euthanasia - voting by 65% to 35% against helping those who are terminally ill to end their life (Guardian report).

The BMA's 2004 edition of Medical Ethics today puts forward an absolute case against legalising euthanasia from the point of view of medicine, palliative care, slippery slopes and the inevitability of involuntary euthanasia and older people being made to feel that they are a burden. It was therefore bizarre that they overruled all these arguments in 2005.

The massive vote against euthanasia, akin to the recent huge poll of doctors by the Royal College of Physicians which showed that the very vast majority of doctors are against euthanasia, suggests that the BMA vote last year was totally unrepresentative of the BMA membership (apparently rushed through at the last minute).

Could we have another vote on abortion please and overturn the BMA's disgraceful support last year for the current abortion law when so many doctors have expressed concern at late abortions? I recently heard Wendy Savage speak at a debate in London and couldn't believe that she was responsible for the BMA voting in support of the current law on abortion. Her views are so 1960s.

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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Eugenics analogy used inaccurately and selectively in The Times

I was struck by the science correspondent, Mark Henderson's comment piece in the Times today "We should all boo that weaselly phrase 'the welfare of the child'. Apart from the fact that Mark Henderson has a platform to dismiss this clause and there is no counterpoint put forward by anyone arguing in favour of the "welfare of the child", it also struck me that it was rather clever how he raised the spectre of eugenics to tarnish any state restriction on fertility treatment. He says that:

"The [welfare of the child] provision enshrines a concept in law that was last popular in the heyday of eugenics: that the State has a right to decide who should and should not become parents. Civilised societies no longer forcibly sterilise the mentally ill or disabled, and constrain the reproductive rights of convicted criminals only for as long as they are locked up. We do not vet fertile men and women before allowing them to have sex, even when they have a history of violence or drug abuse. Expectant mothers are free to smoke and drink during pregnancy, regardless of the risk to the foetus. Yet as soon as people need medical help to conceive, an entirely different standard is applied.

Is anyone taken in by the idea that state restrictions in the interests of safeguarding children, which simply attempts to consider the child as well as but not instead of the infertile couple, on immensely expensive, experimental and often ineffective fertility treatment is an abuse of human rights, when it simply refuses a not medically essential treatment on serious welfare grounds, has anything in common with the universally condemned forced sterilisation programmes on a whole population of women in Peru or China motived by blanket racism which maims women? Surely there is a vast difference between the violence of forced sterilisation and voluntary and often ineffective IVF procedures?

Is it not in fact entirely justifiable to consider the welfare of the child when the state has a hand in fertility, and therefore a responsibility for the child, in a way that is not justifiable when no lab techniques are involved? How is it eugenics to ensure that non-essential medical techniques are only applied when it is obvious there is no harm to those involved?

Isn't eugenics much more applicable to many IVF procedures including pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) which seeks to test and destroy embryos for being "defective"? Why use the eugenics argument to attack the welfare of the child clause and say nothing about the eugenic principles underlying PGD, where embryos can be discarded because they might have a late onset condition? or the trend towards designer babies when parents could design a supposedly "perfect" child (surely a good birth and inescapably eugenics) they want down to blue eyes as a parental right without state interference?

Who will fill the decision-making gap if the state leaves it up to whatever couples want and whatever IVF clinics (motivated by money as Deborah Spar points out in her book on the IVF industry) want to give them? How is it better for the state to wipe its hands of any responsibility and for the IVF clinics and infertile couples to make eugenic choices themselves?

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Unbelievable – Questiontime panellists express touching concern about the child’s need for a father in the Natalie Evans case, as a justification for destroying the child’s life

I couldn’t believe my ears hearing the panellists on Questiontime cite the child’s need for a father as a reason for agreeing to the destruction of Natalie Evans embryos, following her losing her case for custody of the embryos against her ex-partner Howard Johnston who withdrew his consent to IVF treatment after the embryos had been created. As much as I support the child’s need for a father, how on earth can a need for a father be more basic than life and the right of the embryos not be destroyed once they have been created? Add in the fact that Hazel Blears representing the Government have been responsible for undermining the child’s right to a father without any parliamentary debate, through the HFEA, whose unelected and unaccountable ex-chair, Suzi Leather, made pronouncements last year about the child’s right to a father being removed from statute so that single women could receive IVF, and the whole thing struck me as ridiculous, muddle headed and more than a little hypocritical.

I was also astonished that Michael Nazir Ali, Bishop of Rochester who chaired the HFEA’s ethics committee admitted frankly that he did not know who had the right to custody of the embryos, Natalie or her ex-partner. While the HFEA should not be a decision making body, this just goes to highlight the total inadequacy of the HFEA’s understanding of ethics and the fact that the HFEA ethics committee is not just a democratic farce but an intellectual shambles. It is clearly endowed with a power far in excess of its capabilities.

In any case are the ethics really so complex? How on earth can anyone weighing what each party loses side with anyone other than Natalie and the embryos who respectively lose their right to motherhood and life against a man who loses nothing by the implantation of embryos he previously consented to creating? Natalie has undergone a much more serious invasive procedures to produce the embryos than her ex-partner, why should all the egg harvesting, injections and invasive treatment be all in vain because he has changed his mind? The physical consequences of terminating the embryos or implanting them concerns Natalie and the embryos and has no physical impact on her ex-partner. Any attempt to turn this scenario on its head and ask if a woman could be forced to carry embryos if the woman withdrew her consent instead, simply misses the point that the Natalie Evans case does not in any way involve a lack of the woman’s consent to pregnancy.

The current law on consent may side with Howard Johnston but that only proves that the law must change. Consent should only apply to the creation of the embryos and should then be irrevocable, just as marital separation doesn’t give the male partner the right to insist on the destruction of children. It is not as though Howard Johnston’s sperm was used against his will. Writing in the Evening Standard, Will Self says that “Mr Johnston has made statements that exhibit an emotional intelligence all too often far from men’s minds during the act of conception. He has said that IVF is “something that you should undertake as a couple in a stable relationship where the key consideration is the welfare of any offspring. And that he couldn’t countenance having nothing to do with his child, despite knowing that he was somewhere in the world” . All of which is fine and admirable in the context of good fatherhood, but how can it be good fatherhood to insist on the destruction of embryos? Shouldn’t consent to IVF involve a commitment to the children first that isn’t subject to a future change of mind?

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

International Women's Day - Hands off our Ovaries! International Woman’s Day brings launch of a new coalition of women to campaign against exploitation of women in biotechnology

This is the press release from a new international coalition, check it out:

More information or email

On Wednesday, 8 th March, International Women’s Day, a coalition of pro-choice and pro-life women, concerned at the growing exploitation of women in biotechnology will launch a new campaign against the harvesting and marketing of human eggs. The campaign. ‘Hands off our ovaries!’ will highlight the short and long-term risks involved in egg harvesting and its significance for the health and dignity of women.

Concerned feminist representatives have joined together on this common ground, outraged by the casual attitude of the biotech industry towards the female body. Like-minded leaders and groups from around the world are invited to join a list which already includes representation from the USA and Europe.

‘Egg extraction as currently practiced poses inadequately understood, yet clearly significant risks to women’s health. It is criminal to encourage young women to take these risks purely for research purposes.’ says Diane Beeson, Professor of Sociology at the California State University, East Bay, and founder member of ‘Hands off our Ovaries’.

‘Women must quickly come together so that these life threatening concerns for our health and safety are heard. We can no longer sit idly by while women altruistically put themselves in harms way,’ stated Jennifer Lahl, President of Every Woman First.

Leading Italian Feminists, Paola Tavella and Alessandra Di Pietro, authors of the newly-published, ‘Untamed Mothers – Against Technorape of the Female Body’ *, support the campaign and comment, ‘We believe that current biopolitics are separating men and women from natural reproduction and are robbing women of their biological tissues for experimental technoscience. We will fight together with other feminists for the freedom of women and the welfare of future generations.’

‘Women can die from egg harvesting, or suffer irreversible infertility, and the long term effects of the drugs which are used in the process are still being questioned,’ said Josephine Quintavalle on behalf of Comment on Reproductive Ethics. ‘None of these issues has been adequately addressed by the stem cell scientists eager to get their hands on women’s eggs and ovaries. And all for scientific research which still remains in the realm of hypothetical benefit.’

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