News Roundup

Charlie Gard’s parents end legal fight for treatment

The parents of the baby, Charlie Gard, yesterday announced they were ending their legal fight to enable him to leave Great Ormond Street Hospital and the UK to receive experimental treatment abroad. Their lawyer Grant Armstrong told London’s High Court that time had “run out” for the child as irreversible muscular damage has been done and the treatment could no longer be a success. “Charlie has waited patiently for treatment. Due to delay, that window of opportunity has been lost,” Mr Armstrong said.

Connie Yates, the child’s mother, told the High Court: “We only wanted to give him a chance of life.”

“This is one of the hardest things that we will ever have to say and we are about to do the hardest thing that we’ll ever have to do which is to let our beautiful little Charlie go. Put simply, this is about a sweet, gorgeous, innocent little boy who was born with a rare disease, who had a real, genuine chance at life and a family who love him so very dearly and that’s why we fought so hard for him,” she said.

 “There is one simple reason for Charlie’s muscles deteriorating to the extent they are in now — TIME. A whole lot of wasted time. Had Charlie been given the treatment sooner he would have had the potential to be a normal, healthy little boy,” she said.


Assessing risk of suicide by women seeking abortions has no scientific basis, say Psychiatrists

 The ability of psychiatrists to assess the likelihood of suicide has no scientific basis according to two leading Irish doctors. Patrick Devitt and Declan Murray are consultant psychiatrists who recently published the results of their research in Scientific American article entitled “Suicide Assessment Doesn’t Work”. Writing in the Irish Times, they say “there is no technique, skill or warning sign to identify patients at high risk of suicide in a way that would help treatment”. Regarding the legal situation in Ireland, they say those sections of the 2013 Abortion Act dealing with suicide are “based on a false premise”.

“They may be doing more harm than good by promoting the idea that suicidality can be used as a currency to obtain rights or benefits and by spreading the false reassurance among the public that psychiatrists can predict and prevent individual suicides,” they write.


Doctor threatens to sue State if anonymity of sperm and egg donors dropped

Two years after the Children and Family Relationships Act was passed, a register of donors to enable donor-conceived children identify their genetic parents has still not been set up. A request by the Irish Times to the Department of Health for a briefing elicited a one-line response saying that parts 2 and 3 of the Act will be commenced later this year. Meanwhile, Dr John Waterstone, medical director of the Waterstone Clinic in Cork and president of the Irish Fertility Society, described the Act’s proposal for a register as overly coercive and unconstitutional, and vowed to challenge it legally if it is introduced.
In comments to the Irish Times, he said the proposal to create a register is a fad. He would allow donor-conceived children being provided with medical and other information through their parents, so long as it is nonidentifying. “I’d hate to find that, if I had donated sperm, a 21-year-old son would come knocking on the door, saying, ‘Hello, Dad’. That’s when it can get messy.” He asks whether it is fair on a couple who, unable to have a baby, embark on the donor-conceived option, and “then spend all those years changing nappies and waiting outside the teen discos”, to have a third person, the donor, “intrude” in their lives. 
In Dr Waterstone’s view a child is not “hard done by” by not knowing the full detail of his or her genetic heritage. The idea that donor-conceived children are entitled to know their identity is, he said, “utterly meaningless”. This is despite the fact that thousands of donor-conceived children seek out their biological parenrs in later life.

Donor-conceived children tell their stories

The Irish Times has featured the stories of three different donor-conceived women, each of whom suffered traumatic experiences because of the circumstances of their conception and who think donor-conceived assisted reproduction (DAHR) should be banned. Alana Newman from Louisiana, USA, said her birth circumstances made many people happy: the sperm donor, the agency who made it possible and the recipient. But it did not make her happy. After being abandoned by the father who raised her, she went to Poland looking for her real father but was met with hostility and an outright refusal for any further contact. In the UK, Dr Joanna Rose was eight when she found out her father was not her real father. Years later she won a High Court case that led to a ban on donor anonymity in the UK. Rose, however, got no apology, reparation or reunion with her genetic family. Following a “tip-off” as to the identity of her donor-father, she tried to make contact with him but was met by legal threats. Stephanie Raeymaekers in Belgium found out by accident at the age of 25 about the circumstances of her conception. Later, she found out her mother had been impregnated by a “sperm cocktail” and one of her sisters has a different sperm-donor father to her. All three of Newman, Rose and Raeymaeker are now actively campaigning on behalf of donor-conceived children, helping them share their stories, find their origins, and working to ban donor-assisted human reproduction. Dr Rose has addressed meetings of The Iona Institute.

Bishop asks if Church should drop civil part of weddings due to redefinition of marriage

Bishop John Kirby of Clonfert has openly pondered whether it is time for the Church to no longer solemnise marriages on behalf of the State given that the State’s understanding of marriage has been so radically redefined. “We are now performing marriages that are not quite what we intended 40 or 50 years ago,” he explained at a conference in Limerick last week, as the civil concept of marriage has been changed by “the introduction of civil divorce, and the more recent introduction of same-sex marriage as meaning exactly the same thing in civil law”. “I just wonder,” he asked, “would it be better for the Church in Ireland to distance itself from the civil understanding of marriage, and celebrate our marriages as a sacrament and emphasise the sacramentality of Catholic marriages?” responding to this question, conference speaker Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Austria, said the key difficulty with separating the two is that even civil marriages have a “natural” dimension.


Dutch fertility doctor suspected of using his own sperm, may have fathered over 200 children

A group of donor-conceived children in the Netherlands are petitioning a court for access to a DNA sample of a deceased fertility doctor to ascertain whether he is their genetic father. Yonathan Lotte began the search for his sperm-donor father in 2011 but, in the clinic where the IVF that produced him took place, files were in disarray and records not properly kept. Worse again, rumours abounded that the doctor in charge, Jan Karbaat, had himself provided much of the sperm that had impregnated his patients. “We were in shock – it was a feeling of total disbelief. Karbaat was a doctor, and to use his own sperm to get women pregnant would have been totally prohibited,” said Yonathan. He and many others petitioned a court for a DNA sample of the fertility doctor, but this was opposed by the doctor himself. However, he passed away before the court made its decision, which is expected shortly.


Law repealing Good-Friday alcohol ban passes Seanad

Legislation to enable the sale of alcohol in all pubs, restaurants and licensed premises on Good Friday passed the Seanad yesterday. The Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill was introduced by independent Senator Billy Lawless, who said “the passage of today’s bill is another progressive step in Ireland’s long journey in the separation of church and State.” He added: “Removing this 90-year-old provision from the Statute Book sends another clear message that Ireland is a pluralist, global and forward-thinking country.” Vintners groups had lobbied the Government extensively on this and they welcomed passage of the bill. Only one Senator voiced opposition to the move. Fine Gael’s Joe O’Reilly sharply criticized as a myth that the move would help tourism. “What assists tourism in Ireland is our distinctiveness, our native culture, our difference, our Christian values and our traditions. Maintaining our identity attracts far more people to the country than shredding that identity on the altar of naked commercialism”. He also said the great majority of rural publicans oppose the move: “They would prefer the status quo. This is putting them under further economic pressure with costs. It was a day on which their premises were closed and on which they carried out repairs or whatever. Now they will be under commercial pressure from their peers and their neighbours to open and put in staff for a day.” He also voiced concern for workers rights, and for respecting the sensitivities of religious minded people for whom Good Friday, along with Christmas Day, is sacred and deserves special respect.


Theresa May supports push for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland

The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has written of her support for introducing same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland though she continues to believe it should be a matter for the devolved Government.

“I want all British citizens to enjoy the fullest freedoms and protections. That includes equal marriage – because marriage should be for everyone, regardless of their sexuality,” she wrote in the PinkNews online newspaper.

“And while that is a matter for the devolved government of Northern Ireland, I will continue to make my position clear – that LGBT+ people in Northern Ireland should have the same rights as people across the rest of the UK.”


Dutch doctors killed 431 without request in 2015

Figures from the Netherlands show there were 431 “terminations of life without explicit request” carried out by doctors there in 2015. Euthanasia has been legal in the country since the 1970s and every five years a study is conducted to track how many people die as a result of the law and whether there are any concerns with it. In 2015 there were 7254 assisted deaths (6672 euthanasia deaths, 150 assisted suicide deaths, 431 termination of life without request) and 18,213 deaths whereby the medical decisions that were intended to bring about the death. The figures also reveal that there were 1693 unreported assisted deaths (approximately 23%) in 2015. Writing at National Review Online, Wesley J. Smith, said the figures show doctors continually broke the law and violated the “strict protective guidelines” and yet nothing substantial is ever done about it. He also said there is “ongoing infanticide of terminally ill and seriously disabled babies, which is also against the law”, and yet nothing is done about that either. He concluded: “Guidelines exist to give false assurance, not to really protect against abuse. Once a society accepts euthanasia consciousness, guidelines cease to matter.”


Oregon bill guarantees free abortions for all, regardless of gender identity

A bill has passed the Oregon State legislature that ensures abortions will be covered by health insurance for all people regardless of “gender-identity” or, as the local newspaper the Willamette Week put it, “abortions for all women, regardless of income, citizenship status or gender identity.”

Groups are hailing the legislation for its outreach to transgender and gender-nonconforming patients. Kara Carmosino, Director of Programs and Strategy for Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, said in a statement: “Transgender and gender-nonconforming Oregonians need access to services often categorized as ‘women’s health care,’ including gender-specific cancer screenings. Unfortunately, when coverage is dependent on one’s gender marker, procedural barriers can hinder access to this necessary and lifesaving care”.


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