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THE CATHOLIC HERALD JULY 8 2011

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BMA accuses Falconer commission of euthanasia bias

BY SIMON CALDWELL

LORD FALCONER’S inquiry into assisted suicide has suffered a major setback after it was condemned as biased by Britain’s doctors.

The British Medical Association (BMA) passed a resolution questioning the “stated impartiality and independence” of the Commission on Assisted Dying.

“The significant majority of members of Lord Falconer’s Commission on Assisted Dying are publicly in favour of assisted suicide and euthanasia,” it said in a motion approved at an annual conference in Cardiff.

The motion registered doctors’ support for the refusal of the BMA to give evidence to the commission because of its overt bias in favour of euthanasia.

It requested that the BMA ethics committee “make the association’s opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia clear” to the Falconer commission and sent a warning to its own magazine, the British Medical Journal, to avoid bias in its reporting of the commission’s deliberations.

The motion won the backing of the BMA after it was disclosed that of the 12 members of the commission nine publicly support a change in the law to allow assisted suicide.

Cafod asks for urgent help for EthiopiaBYEDWEST

CAFOD has launched an emergency appeal after Ethiopia and other neighbouring African nations were hit by their worst drought in a generation.

A spokesman for the aid agency said: “We cannot underestimate the gravity of the situation. The rains have gone, the crops have failed, livestock are dying, and thousands of people are migrating in search of food but with nowhere better to go.”

Following two straight seasons of poor rain eight million people are facing food and water shortage as a drought worsens in the Horn of Africa. Poor rains in the region have led to failed harvests, serious water and pasture shortages, and the deaths of thousands of animals. Ethiopia is facing its worst famine for three decades, and Somalia and Kenya face severe food shortages, with hundreds of thousands of people facing starvation over the next three months.

In some parts of northern Kenya 37 per cent of the populat ion require emergency food supplies, more than double the 15 per cent threshold for a situation to be considered an emergency.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell announced that an extra £38 million would be provided for the World Food Programme’s work in Ethiopia. He said: “Through no fault of i ts own, the Horn of Africa is experiencing a severe drought caused by the failed rains.

“Britain is acting quickly and decisively in Ethiopia to stop this crisis becoming a catastrophe. We will provide vital food to help 1.3 million people through the next three months.

“For the response to be effective, we need the most up-to-date, accurate information on the level of need in Ethiopia. The country has made great strides in many areas over the past 30 years and this emergency relief will help to ensure that these gains are not eroded.’’

Mr Mitchell urged the Ethiopian government to provide figures on the numbers of those affected in the country’s south so that aid agencies could target relief. He unveiled extra help for 329,000 malnourished children.

A Cafod spokesman said: “Andrew Mitchell’s announcement is welcome and essential, but we need to see the same sense of urgency from other governments.”

He said that other countries would also have act. Editorial Comment Page 13

The only MP on the commission, Penny Mordaunt, is the chairwoman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Choices at the End of Life, a group of MPs and peers who are campaigning for an assisted suicide law. The commission, set up by the think-tank Demos in November, is also funded by Dignity in Dying, formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, and one of its celebrity patrons, Sir Terry Pratchett, the fantasy author.

The commission is due to report in the autumn ahead of an expected assisted suicide or euthanasia Bill probably introduced into the House of Lords next year, which would be the fourth attempt to change the law since 2006. Critics predict the report will call for a new Bill with so-called “robust safeguards” to legalise “assisted dying” for “mentally competent terminally ill adults”.

The BMA’s criticism was welcomed by the palliative care expert Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, founder of Living and Dying Well, a group which researches and publishes scientific papers on endof-life issues.

“What has happened today is that the BMA has expressed concern that the way this has been set up means that there isn’t a balanced, objective assessment of evidence because the commission hasn’t got people there who have practical concerns and objections to the evidence that is being proposed,” she said. “The inquiry made an assumption that those people who object even on practical grounds have closed minds and cannot look at different options objectively.”

The motion was also praised by anti-euthanasia campaigners who said it showed that the former Lord Chancellor’s inquiry has no credibility. “We have every reason to be thankful to the BMA,” said Phyllis Bowman of Right to Life said. “We are sure that MPs will recognise that the commission’s report is not worth the paper it is written on.” Elspeth ChowdharayBest of the Alert pressure group said: “This commission is nothing but a vehicle to persuade Parliament to legalise assisted suicide. It does not have any credibility as an impartial or independent group and the BMA must be applauded for courageously recognising that fact.”

So far more than 50 organisations have refused to give evidence to the inquiry. Parliamentarians have repeatedly rejected attempts to change the law.

But Sarah Wootton of Dignity in Dying, defended the commission. She said: “The Commission on Assisted Dying is helping to create a debate which the public wants and healthcare professionals need. This motion proposed by a representative from the Christian Medical Fellowship and supported by Baroness Finlay is disappointingly hostile to such debate but unwittingly forces the BMA to engage with the Commission. The BMA will now be forced to set out its opposition to a change in the law, which will include detailing the evidence that backs up its argument. Our analysis is that a change in the law on assisted dying would provide choice to end unnecessary suffering at the end of life and better protect people than the current law.”

The four men prostrate themselves during the ordination ceremony Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk

Archbishop Nichols ordains four new priests BY DAVID V BARRETT

FOUR priests were ordained by Archbishop Vincent Nichols at Westminster Cathedral last Saturday on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

They are Fr Paolo Bagini, originally from Brazil, Fr Andrew Connick, Fr Andrew Gallagher and Fr Graham Stokes.

In his homily Archbishop Nichols told the four: “For you, this is a day of radical selfgiving and of radical fulfilment. It is a day of dying to self and rising again in the dignity of the ordained priesthood of Jesus Christ.”

Before their ordination the four candidates prostrated themselves on the floor of the cathedral, “taking up a posture of utter vulnerability, of selfabandonment. They do so as a sign of dying to self, so that Christ may raise them up to a new life in him,” he said.

Archbishop Nichols said: “In this act of ordination God exercises a total claim over your lives, setting you apart for himself in a particular way. Such is the nature of priestly holiness.

“Yet it must not be misunderstood. Holiness is a setting apart. Everything we bless and consecrate is indeed set apart for God. Yet this being set apart is, at the same time, a being sent out on mission. This is true of Christ: consecrated by the Holy Spirit, abandoning himself to death on the Cross, yet at the same time fulfilling the mission given by the Father of bringing love and compassion especially to those most in need. Our consecration to God,

as a baptised people, as priests and bishops, is inseparably our mission of service to others. The holiness we receive, for which we strive, lies always in our being for the world.”

Brought up in a Neocatechumenal family in Brazil, Fr Bagini wanted to be a priest from an early age. “I can even remember baptising my cat,” he said. Following teenage rebellion he said God led him “on an incredible journey which brought me to England at the age of 18” to begin training as a priest.

Fr Connick was an altar server at his parish church in Golders Green, London. He studied Computer Science at university. There, he said: “I came to realise that my relationship with God was the most important thing in my life.”

At seven Fr Gallagher was an altar boy at Our Lady of Lourdes in Harpenden, near St Albans. Later work as an intern at Westminster Cathedral, contact with the Faith Movement and working with parish pilgrimages with Pax Travel helped him to realise that God was calling him to the priesthood. Fr Stokes’s vocation was nurtured through the chaplaincy at Nottingham University and the Youth 2000 movement. Then he became involved in parish work, including involvement in the ‘At Your Word Lord’ programme at St Peter and St Paul’s in west London. The four new priests bring the total in the Archdiocese of Westminster to 417, serving over 400,000 Catholics in 214 parishes.

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Ethicists support ban on patents for stem cell products

BY SIMON CALDWELL

A GROUP of 25 ethicists and lawyers from 11 countries across Europe have expressed their support for a proposed ban on the patenting of technologies derived from destructive experiments on human embryos.

In a letter to the Nature journal the group argued that commercial interests alone were not sufficient to decide European policy.

The group was led by Dr David Jones, director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Oxford – formerly the Linacre Centre, a bioethics institute serving the Catholic Church.

Signatories sought to express their opinion in the face of pressure put on the European Court of Justice to allow such patenting in spite of the opinion of Judge Yves Blot, one of its eight advocate generals, that it should be forbidden.

The advocate general recommended in March that European law should not allow patents for use of human embryos “for industrial or commercial purposes”. He argued that patents were not allowed on the human body “at the various stages of its formation and development”. This included the embryonic stage of development.

He gave his opinion during a case brought by the environmental group Greenpeace, which is challenging a patent filed by scientists in Germany.

A legally binding final decision is expected to be issued by the court in the next few weeks.

Stem cell scientists have objected to Mr Blot’s opinion, however, and a group of 13 of them wrote to Nature to say that biotechnological companies “must have patent protection” or “European discoveries could be translated into applications elsewhere”.

They said that “innovative companies must have patent protection as an incentive to become active in Europe”.

“The advocate-general’s opinion therefore represents a blow to years of effort to derive biomedical applications from embryonic stem cells in areas such as drug development and cell-replacement therapy,” the scientists said in their letter.

The ethicists’ letter urges the court to uphold the law. : “There will often be some commercial risk whenever Europe defends a more rigorous standard than is defended elsewhere. This risk is not itself an argument against upholding the standard prescribed by law.

“Without judgment in this case the resolution of patent law is and ought to be more than a question of European commercial interest.”

The ethicists argued that, while patents help the company that owns them, they may not help European interests, as they “may also be held by nonEuropean companies” and can prevent research cooperation.

EAST AFRICA CRISIS

Ten million people are facing a devastating drought in East Africa. Very poor rains have led to crop failure, serious food and water shortages and the deaths of tens of thousands of animals in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan. With no rain expected until September, the situation can only get worse. The UN says that in some regions the drought is the worst in years. We urgently need your support to get life-saving aid to people now.

Please make a donation today. Your gift will help to provide life-saving food for the most vulnerable, as well as water-points, medicine and emergency support for families whose animals are dying.

Please give to the East Africa Crisis Appeal. Your help WILL reach people who need it most.

cafod.org.uk/eastafrica or call

Alternatively, complete and post the coupon to the address below. Here is my gift of £ £ £ £ or my preferred amount is £ for the East Africa Crisis Appeal

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