MDs overstepping euthanasia guidelines in The Netherlands
Liberal abortion law rejected in Namibia
Euthanasia clinic to open in Melbourne
Doctor admits to killing hundreds in London
Sterilization scheme opposed in Caracas
PM ‘horrified’ by woman’s expulsion from Australia’s detention centre
Abortionist gets life sentence in Riyadh
Indian couples avoid girls
Genetic screening poses dangers, European scientists warn
Lesbians suing for recognition
MDs overstepping euthanasia guidelines

AMSTERDAM – Euthanasia controls and legal safeguards appear to be failing in The Netherlands, according to the Journal of Medical Ethics. Two separate reports have found that two-thirds of euthanasia cases have not been reported as Royal Dutch Medical Association guidelines insist. They found that if all cases of “explicit intentions to end a life” were taken into account, the actual number of euthanasias was 24,500, well above the official figure of 3,200.

One in five euthanasia cases has taken place without the patient’s explicit request, and in 17 per cent of cases, alternative treatments have been available, making the euthanasias illegal. Dutch law requires that patients experience “unbearable suffering” before being eligible for euthanasia.

One of the two reports concludes: “The reality is that a clear majority of cases of euthanasia, both with and without request, go unreported and unchecked. Dutch claims of effective regulation ring hollow.”

Liberal abortion law rejected

WINDHOEK, Namibia – Namibian health minister Libertina Amathila says her government has abandoned plans to introduce legislation giving mothers the option to have abortions under certain conditions. “Namibians don’t want abortion,” she said.

Wide-ranging consultations with the population found that 99 per cent of Namibians didn’t want a liberalized abortion law, said Amathila. Church leaders welcomed the government’s decision. Bishop Kleopas Dumeni of the Evangelical Lutheran Church said he was delighted that the churches’ voice was heard, adding that they views abortion as nothing less than murder.

A draft Abortion and Sterilization bill was issued for public consultation in 1996, seeking to liberalize abortion access in the first three months of pregnancy.

Euthanasia clinic to open

MELBOURNE, Australia – As Dr. Philip Nitschke prepared to open a three-day euthanasia “clinic” here, the Australian Medical Association filed complaints of medical misconduct against him. The clinic was to offer free advice, but no prescriptions. It would operate for one week every two months, and serve as a base for similar clinics around Australia.

“Most of these people are elderly, most of these people have cancer,” he told the media. Nitschke had previously set up temporary “clinics” in Sydney and Brisbane, which the Australian Medical Association opposed on the grounds that medicine was “a caring profession, not a killing profession.”

Meanwhile, a second pro-euthanasia television advertisement featuring a woman dying of cancer was set to air on Australian television. One station promised to air the ad as part of its “charity air time.” The woman is said to have remarked, “If I was a dog … (they) would have me put down straight away.”

Doctor admits to killing hundreds

LONDON – A British doctor on trial for murder has admitted to killing up to 300 of his patients. Dr. David Moor has pleaded not guilty to the murder of George Liddell, who was under Moor’s care at Liddell’s daughter’s home. An employee of the British National Health Service said she spoke to Moor by telephone, at which point he told her, “I probably dealt with about 10 a year and have been doing so for the last 30 years … They were people ready to go and their relatives were ready for them to go.”

The prosecution alleges that Moor injected Liddell with a massive amount of diamorphine. The defence, meanwhile, contends that Moor was “walking a tightrope.” Moor “was trying to ease the suffering of someone very, very close to death,” said defence lawyer Anthony Arlidge. “Was this caring doctor who tended patients for many years turned into a murderer? Our case is that he was not.”

Sterilization scheme opposed

CARACAS – Catholic bishops in Venezuela have spoken out against an anti-poverty program – the “Bolivar 2000 Plan” – that includes among its planks of improved food production, health care and infrastructure, the sterilization of women living in poverty. The government’s director of maternity services, Dr. Carlos Carbera, announced the plan recently.

“Any mutilation, when not prescribed for a vital therapeutic reason, is immoral, and even more when it is officially promoted by the government,” said Bishop Hernan Sanchez, secretary-general of the Venezuelan Catholic bishops’ conference. Sanchez took to task Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who at his recent inauguration, proclaimed himself to be a “devout Catholic.”

“Each official birth control campaign aimed at the poor always creates more injustice and violates the human rights of the defenceless,” Chavez had said at that inauguration.

PM ‘horrified’ by woman’s expulsion

BEIHAI, China – Australian prime minister John Howard says he is horrified by the expulsion from his country of a Chinese woman who was eight months pregnant and was forced to undergo an abortion when she arrived home in the Chinese city of Beihai. An independent Australian senator said the woman, who was an illegal immigrant, was deported from an Australian detention centre 10 days before her delivery date. She was taken to hospital, subjected to an abortion, and then was presented as a bill.

“The matter is going to be investigated quite stringently because I am very concerned about it,” Howard told a radio station. “It offends my own instincts … It certainly would have been against policy for someone in that situation to have been returned against their will.”

Earlier, the minister of immigration had said he thought it “highly unlikely” a heavily pregnant woman would be placed on an aircraft and removed from Australia.

Abortionist gets life sentence

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – A Lebanese doctor who was convicted of performing abortions in Saudi Arabia after spending over a decade in jail, has received a sentence of life in prison, the daily newspaper al-Eqtissadiyah reported recently. Investigators had learned that the doctor, whose identity was not revealed, performed an unspecified number of abortions on single Saudi women who were pregnant, the newspaper said.

The newspaper did indicate when the sentence was passed, but said the doctor has been in jail for 12 years. Abortion is banned in the Islamic republic of Saudi Arabia, except in extraordinary circumstances, such as a risk to the mother’s life caused by a pregnancy.

Indian couples avoid girls

NEW DELHI – The abortion of female unborn children is said to be becoming a more common practice in India, despite educational and legal campaigns to eradicate cultural preferences for sons. India’s ratio of women to men, already among the lowest in the world, is in further decline. In 1991, there were 945 girls for every 1,000 boys under six, and the ratio is worse now.

The figures are said to be giving the government second thoughts on “family planning,” and whether a goal of gender equality should replace an emphasis on stemming population growth. Meanwhile, some specialists are favouring allowing couples to have children of their preferred sex as a way of preventing the births of unwanted girls who are destined for abuse and neglect.

A 1994 law banned doctors from telling couples the sex of their unborn child, under penalty of up to three years in jail and a $250 fine. But clandestine ultrasound scans, at fees of often up to four times the standard, are common.

Genetic screening poses dangers

LONDON – European scientists are warning that genetic screening and new DNA technology could open up “a Pandora’s Box” of eugenics and discrimination if they are not properly regulated. In a few years, they say, scientists will be able to test a person’s genetic makeup for susceptibility to diseases by using DNA silicon chips the size of a thumbnail. Doctors are already screening test tube embryos for genetic defects before implanting them in their mothers’ wombs.

“The combination of DNA chip screening with pre-implantation diagnosis might be the logical next step towards high-tech eugenics,” said Dr. Wolfram Henn of the Institute of Human Genetics in Homburg-Sarr, Germany. He added that DNA chip technology “provides employers and insurers with ethically questionable parameters for aptitude tests.”

Lesbians suing for recognition

JERUSALEM – Three-and-a-half-year-old Matan Brenner-Kaddish has two mothers – or so the woman who bore him via artificial insemination, and the other who adopted him, want an Israeli court to believe. The women filed suit after trying to register Matan as an Israeli citizen, but found that government forms had space for only one mother.