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LIFE DIGEST: Dutch hospital euthanizes babies; Swiss approve embryonic stem cell research; poll misstates Roe v. Wade

WASHINGTON (BP)–A Dutch hospital, by its own admission, has put infants to death even before it received government permission to euthanize terminally ill children.

Groningen University Hospital has acknowledged it extinguished the lives of four newborns in 2003, the Associated Press reported Nov. 30. Those deaths were reported to the government, but no charges have been brought against the hospital, according to the AP.

The Justice Ministry of The Netherlands said 14 cases of child euthanasia were reported in the years prior to 2003, and some of those took place in other hospitals, according to the AP.

In August, a Dutch doctors association requested the government’s Health Ministry establish an independent panel to review the cases of terminally ill patients “with no free will,” the AP reported. This category would include children, people with severe mental impairments and patients in a supposedly irreversible coma, according to the AP. The Health Ministry has yet to respond to the appeal, the AP reported.

Baptist Press reported in its Oct. 6 Life Digest the Groningen hospital had approved euthanasia for children under the age of 12.

It is now clear the hospital had already carried out euthanasia on babies before the government had an opportunity to decide on its legality.

“The slippery slope in the Netherlands has descended already into a vertical cliff,” said Wesley Smith, a lawyer for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, according to the AP.

The euthanizing of the young is not new in The Netherlands, the first country to legalize the practice for adults. A 1997 study published in the Lancet, a British medical journal, found 45 percent of neo-natologists and 31 percent of pediatricians had secretly euthanized infants, Smith wrote in a Sept. 13 article in The Daily Standard. About 21 percent of infant deaths by euthanasia took place without the request or the consent of the parents, Smith said.

Child euthanasia also has been proposed in Belgium. Legislation expanding euthanasia, which was legalized in 2002, to terminally ill teenagers and children has been introduced in the Belgian Senate, Reuters news service reported.

FRENCH ON SLOPE –- The French National Assembly has passed a bill to legalize what its supporters describe as “passive” euthanasia.

The legislation would allow doctors in France to withhold treatment at the request of patients and their families, CNSNews.com reported Dec. 1. The proposal also would protect physicians from prosecution when they administer at the request of patients abnormal doses of medicine that have the effect of bringing on death, according to CNS News.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill early in 2005, according to the report.

SWISS TARGET EMBRYOS -– Voters in Switzerland have approved research using stem cells from embryos stored at fertility clinics.

In a Nov. 28 referendum, the Swiss passed with a 66 percent majority the extraction of stem cells from embryos, which results in the destruction of the tiny human beings normally about a week old, Reuters reported. The initiative does not, however, permit the cloning of embryos for research purposes.

The new law distinguishes Switzerland from Belgium and England, countries that permit research cloning, according to Reuters. Other European countries with laws similar to the Swiss are Denmark, France, The Netherlands and Spain, Reuters reported.

Stem cells are the body’s master cells that can develop into other cells and tissues, building hope for treatments of numerous afflictions. They may be found in such non-embryonic sources as bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, fat and placentas. The procurement of stem cells from such sources does not harm the donor.

Supporters of embryonic stem cell research claim this line of study has the most potential for creating cures, but that is not evident in the priorities of the multi-billion-dollar biotechnology industry, which has invested many times more in adult stem cell research. Also, embryonic stem cell research has experienced multiple failures, including the worsening of Parkinson’s symptoms in one human test group and a tendency to produce tumors in laboratory animals.

Research on stem cells from non-embryonic sources has produced more than 40 treatments for such afflictions as multiple sclerosis, heart disease, diabetes, spinal cord injuries, blindness, lupus and Crohn’s disease.

AP’S ERRANT POLL -– The Associated Press recently reported 59 percent of Americans want President Bush to nominate to the Supreme Court judges who will uphold the 1973 decision legalizing abortion — but that figure may have been inflated by erroneous information given in the survey about the ruling.

In the AP-commissioned poll, which was done Nov. 19-21, those surveyed were told the Roe v. Wade opinion legalized abortion in the “first three months of pregnancy.”

Actually, the Roe decision legalized abortion without restriction until viability, which occurs about five and a half months into pregnancy, according to the National Right to Life Committee. In conjunction with Doe v. Bolton, a companion ruling issued at the same time, Roe produced a right to abortion throughout pregnancy for any reason. After viability, the high court ruled abortion restrictions must include an exception for the “health” of the mother. In Doe, the justices defined maternal health so expansively they legitimized abortion on demand.

“It is way past time for the news media to stop distorting the real terms of Roe v. Wade,” NRLC legislative director Douglas Johnson said in a written statement. “Poll after poll shows that 70 to 80 percent of Americans say they favor limitations on abortion that are not permitted under the real Roe v. Wade. The public deserves from the news media not the continued propagation of discredited myths but a more candid discussion” of Roe’s effects.

An AP executive editor actually corrected his own staff on the Roe misinformation more than two decades ago, NRLC reported. According to NRLC, Louis Boccardi wrote in a 1981 memorandum, “The [Roe v. Wade] decision is often misreported, even now…. For summary purposes, you can say the court legalized abortion in 1973…. Thus, it’s wrong to say only that the court approved abortion in the first three months. It did that, but more.”

CHRISTMAS DEATH WISH -– The Planned Parenthood Federation of America is back with its grim twist on the biblical message of Christmas.

The country’s No. 1 abortion chain again is selling its “Choice on Earth” holiday cards. The card has the words “choice on earth” on the cover, according to Planned Parenthood’s website, www.ppfa.org. Customers have a choice of a blank page on the inside or the following message: “Warmest wishes for a peaceful holiday season.”

PPFA’s “choice on earth” slogan is a pernicious twist on “peace on earth,” part of the message the angels declared to the shepherds upon the announcement of the birth of Jesus, according to Luke 2.

“By replacing ‘peace’ with ‘choice,’ or more accurately, ‘killing the innocent on earth,’ Planned Parenthood is essentially saying ‘abortion on earth,’” said Jim Sedlak, executive director of Stop Planned Parenthood International, a division of American Life League. “This blatant mockery of Christian values –- and of Christ Himself – truly demonstrates the bigoted, anti-religion, anti-God nature of Planned Parenthood.”

NO TO PARENTS –- Planned Parenthood has won a court battle over parents’ rights.

The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Nov. 24 a New Hampshire law requiring parental notification for a minor’s abortion is unconstitutional, according to the Associated Press. The court upheld a 2003 decision by a federal judge, who struck down the law because it did not include a health exception.

The law’s defenders acknowledged it did not include a health exception but pointed out it provided a judge with the authority to waive parental notification upon a request by a girl, the AP reported.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Craig Benson said he was disappointed by the ruling. “It’s not about abortion rights; it’s about parental rights,” Alicia Preston said, according to the AP.
Compiled by Tom Strode.

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