Bell rings on umpteenth round in Terri Schiavo case</b>

Terri Schiavo A Florida law passed to prevent a brain-damaged woman from having her food and water withdrawn to bring about her death has been deemed unconstitutional by the state's Supreme Court. The court said on Thursday that "Terri's Law", hastily pushed through the legislature by Governor Jeb Bush last year, was "unconstitutional as a violation of separation of powers, as a violation of the right of privacy and as unconstitutional retroactive legislation".

Terri Schiavo fell unconscious after a heart attack 14 years ago. She can breath on her own, but needs to be… MORE

First baby born from frozen ovarian tissue</b>

Ouarda Touirat with her baby A Belgian team has raised hopes that women who have treatment for cancer and women who want to delay motherhood until after menopause can still become pregnant naturally. In an article in this week's issue of The Lancet Dr Jacques Donnez outlined how he froze ovarian tissue from Ouarda Touirat when she was 25 in 1997. Six years after treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma, Ms Touirat was cleared of cancer and had her tissue transplanted. Her ovarian function was restored and she became pregnant naturally.

This new technique is good… MORE

New animal research stats needed, says UK govt adviser</b>

An adviser on animal research for the British government has called for clearer statistics on animal experiments which can be understood by the public. Professor Michael Banner, of Edinburgh University, chairs the Animal Procedures Committee. He has complained in the London Telegraph that no one really knows how much animals suffer and how many are subjected to experiments that make them suffer. Statistics which show that there were millions of "procedures" conjure up "an image of suffering on a vast scale", he says, but in fact many of these procedures are brief and… MORE

Euthanasia deaths in UK could reach 18,000 each year</b>

A British expert on euthanasia has called for the legalisation of euthanasia after estimating that 18,000 people are secretly killed each year by doctors. Dr Hazel Biggs, of the University of Kent, based her figures on extrapolations of figures from the Netherlands and Australia and on interviews with British doctors. What this says to me is that we know these practices are going on, but they are completely unregulated," she says. "We don't know how many people are volunteers or non-volunteers, and maybe because of that the law ought to be changed so that people can give voluntary consent, which… MORE

Growing support for “conscience clause” in US health care</b>

Doctors, nurses and pharmacists who have a conscientious objection to abortion, the morning-after pill or contraception are winning more support in the US Congress and in state legislatures, according to an AP report. Almost unnoticed, the US House of Representatives recently passed a provision that would prohibit local, state or federal authorities from forcing persons or institutions to provide abortions, even in cases of rape or medical emergency. Although the chance that it will survive scrutiny by the Senate is slim, some states are enacting even more liberal exemptions. Mississippi passed a law in July which allows health care workers… MORE

Bush v Kerry on health</b>

Life issues appear to be the most radical differences between American presidential candidates George Bush and John Kerry in their health and science policies. In analyses published by the BMJ, Nature and the BBC, the two men clashed most on abortion and stem cell research, although they also have different solutions to health coverage, climate change, GM crops and new nuclear weapons. According to BBC analyst Paul Reynolds, this represents a battle between Kerry's science and Bush's "moral fundamentalism" -- a view hotly disputed by the President's supporters.

On abortion, the Republican platform elevates embryos and foetuses to the status… MORE

Discussing death with children should not be taboo

The UK lobby group GeneWatch claims that companies are preparing to market gene tests for a "susceptibility" to a disease and that this could frighten people into taking unnecessary medication. "Most claims that genes increase a person's risk of common conditions, such as heart disease, depression or obesity, later turn out to be wrong," says GeneWatch deputy director Dr Helen Wallace. "Unregulated genetic testing would mean that we could all be frightened into taking medicines for illness that we are never going to get." The UK does not require companies which market tests to confirm the link between a gene… MORE

Call for referendum to reverse Italian fertility law</b>

Critics of Italy's strict new law regulating the fertility industry are scrambling to get half a million signatures by September 30 so that they can have a referendum to scrap it. The law, which was passed only in February, bans donor sperm or eggs, surrogate motherhood, IVF for gays and single women, embryo freezing and embryo experimentation. Although many leaders of Italy's diverse political parties are backing reform, other politicians warn that a referendum could "tear the country apart". MORE

India’s census pinpoints the disappearing girls</b>

The sex ratio of India's children is notoriously skewed in favour of boys, but recently-released figures from the 2001 census give a more detailed breakdown according to religion. They show that the ratio is lowest amongst the Sikhs and Jains and highest amongst Christians and tribal religions. The natural sex ratio at birth is between 940 and 950 girls per 1000 boys, according to the Population Reference Bureau. The Indian ratio is highest amongst tribal people (976) and Christians (964). Amongst Buddhists it is 942 and amongst Muslims and Hindus 925. However, amongst… MORE

IN BRIEF: </b> placebos; teenagers; embryo licence fees

  • A survey of Israeli doctors suggests that they often give inactive "placebo" pills to their patients and then lie by telling them that they are getting a real drug. Some doctors want the practice banned because of the deception and possible harm to the doctor-patient relationship, say the authors of a study in the British Medical Journal. MORE

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