“No position” on euthanasia from UK age and cancer charities
LONDON – Two major UK charities, Age UK and Macmillan Cancer Support, have both issued statements saying that they officially have “no position” on the push to legalize euthanasia or assisted suicide.
Age UK, formed after the 2009 merger of Age Concern England and Help the Aged, said in a letter to the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children that their “governance framework” specifically prohibits the Board of Trustees from adopting policy positions that “unnecessarily promote division amongst older people.”
In the July 12th letter Tom Wright, Age UK’s chief executive, said, “I can confirm that as a result of this Age UK does not have a policy position on euthanasia or assisted suicide, nor do we fund or support any campaigns in relation to these issues. In relation to your query on advanced directives, as you might expect, this is a subject on which we are asked for advice by older people and we have developed a factsheet.”
SPUC warned that the issue is a key one for older people and people with cancer, particularly in light of current legislation on “living wills.” Vulnerable sick and older people could be under threat when a living will is applied “in the best interests of the patient” to include the denial of nutrition or hydration, both of which are considered “medical treatment” in Britain.
Macmillan Cancer Support provides practical, medical, and financial support for better cancer care. In their July 28th letter to SPUC, the group said, “Macmillan Cancer Support does not have a policy on euthanasia and assisted suicide. With regard to advance directives or living wills, we have an information page on our website, titled ‘Advance decisions.’”
“It is no surprise that the pro-euthanasia people are very interested in living wills, because they see an opportunity to use the denial of treatment - that would be encouraged as the content of a living will - as a form of soft euthanasia,” according to Dr. Greg Pike of the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute.
Economic crisis will cause Russian birth rate to plummet again
MOSCOW – While the Russian population decline has slowed in recent years, experts believe it is ready for another precipitous fall after it was discovered that the global economic crisis is pushing up the country’s already astonishing abortion rate.
The Center of Demography and Ecology believe the birthrate may drop again by almost 200,000 next year. RT News reports that government websites are being “flooded” with complaints from women who say that financial incentives have made “pregnancy a loss rather than a profit.”
RT reports that average monthly salaries have decreased by 25 percent and unemployment has surged by one-quarter. Another 1.4 million are receiving state welfare benefits. Two million legal abortions were committed in Russia in 2008, and an estimated 3.5 million were conducted illegally. Russia has the highest rate of abortion in Europe, and one of the highest in the world. Moscow alone has over 800,000 private abortion facilities.
At the same time, Aton, a Moscow-based investment bank, published a report entitled “Make Love Not Oil,” showing that recent demographic gains will soon be reversed.
The country’s population fell between 1991 and 2009 from 148.7 million to 141.9 million, and alarmed leaders have started to consider legal restrictions on abortion, as well as financial incentives to have more than one child.
Russian life expectancy, while still below the European standard, is lengthening, with 64 the average life expectancy for men and 76 for women. Infant mortality, while still twice the European standard, has declined. Deaths still outnumber births, but the gap is narrowing, from nearly 1 million to 100,000 in 2011.
But these improvements are expected to reverse as the cohort born in the 1990s comes to full working age. After decades of low birth rates, the number of women of child-bearing age will significantly fall and even fewer children will be born, an effect called the “reverse pyramid” by demographers.
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Hundreds of human fetuses discovered dumped in Russian field
NEVYANSK, Russian Federation – Russian law enforcement was baffled late last month when local mushroom pickers discovered the remains of hundreds of human fetuses that had been used in medical research. Some reports claim that the remains were no more than 12 weeks, while others say they were between 12 and 16 weeks gestation. Some of the bodies may be more than a decade old, RT News reports.
Discovered stored in blue plastic 50-liter canisters filled with formalin that had opened after being discarded near a highway, the remains had become mummified on exposure to the air. They are thought to have been thrown from a vehicle.
A local man told Russian Channel 4 television news, “A friend of mine called at night and said he went fishing and wanted to get some wood for his fire. He found some abandoned water canisters and wanted to take them for his house. And when he came up, he saw…little baby bodies.”
The tiny bodies, none more than 15 centimeters long, are being examined by forensic experts at a local hospital. Each body held a tag on which was written a surname and a numeric code. The code indicated that the remains came from four possible medical research facilities in nearby Yekaterinburg.
Abortion in Russia is legal on demand up to 12 weeks gestation, or up to 22 weeks if the woman can demonstrate conception from rape or prove the procedure is necessary due to financial incapacity. After 22 weeks she must demonstrate her “health” is threatened by the pregnancy. But Russia continues to have one of the highest rates of abortion in the world, second only to China, and medical workers report that the average number of abortions is as high as seven per woman.
While police say the remains are likely the results of improperly disposed “medical waste” from local hospitals, and not necessarily evidence of criminal activity, some medical experts believe otherwise. Human fetuses are defined as “Class B” biological waste and are required by law to be incinerated.
RT quotes Lydia Lukutova, from the Moscow regional research institute of Gynecology and Obstetrics, “This case is simply impossible in normal gynecological clinics. All fetuses must be disposed of immediately. I wouldn’t rule out some sort of criminal activity.”
Elena Mizulina, the head of the State Duma committee on Family, Women and Children, suggested that they may have been used in pharmaceutical research or even cosmetological testing. She told the newspaper Izvestia that the improper disposal may have been an attempt to hide evidence from an investigation into medical research practices.
“The demand for such ‘material’ is huge,” she said, especially by pharmacologists and cosmetologists as a possible source of stem cells.
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Kenyan officials balk at Melinda Gates contraceptive push
NAIROBI – While the Catholic bishops have called it “dehumanizing” and “insulting,” Kenyan officials have disappointed population controllers at the Melinda Gates-sponsored London Summit on Family Planning when they failed to make an immediate commitment.
While other countries’ delegates made specific promises, Kenyan Planning Minister said only that the government is committed to policies to control the current population growth rate of 2.9 percent per year.
Eliyas Zulu, executive director of the African Institute for Development Policy, who attended the meeting, told Capital FM News, “There were no specific commitments that Kenya made. Kenya has made progress but there are big service gaps with about 25 percent of married women having unmet need for family planning.”
“But also I think the most critical thing that the summit emphasized is that governments need to make sure that there is equitable access to family planning and that’s one of the big problems we have in Kenya,” he added.
The government plans to increase the use of artificial contraceptives by ten percent, from the current rate of 46 percent among married women. The country’s population has increased from 15.3 million in 1979 to 38.6 million in 2009.