News Roundup

Minister to meet doctors over HSE’s continued use of Tavistock clinic

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is to meet doctors from the National Gender Service (NGS) later this month over their concerns about the Health Service Executive’s decision to continue referring children to the Tavistock Clinic in the UK.

Last Thursday, psychiatrists Dr Paul Moran and Dr Ian Schneider, along with endocrinologists Dr Karl Neff and Prof Donal O’Shea, wrote to Mr Donnelly, and said in light of the HSE’s determination to continue sending Irish children to the Tavistock GIDS for gender treatment, “despite the overwhelming evidence that this clinic is unsafe, and the decision of the NHS to close it, we request an urgent meeting with you to further discuss the risk this presents to Irish children”.

Earlier this month, an interim report by Dr Hillary Cass found staff at Tavistock felt “under pressure” to adopt an “unquestioning affirmative approach” to gender that was at odds with standard clinical assessment processes.

Questioning the evidence based around “all aspects of gender care” in Britain, Dr Cass said there were “significant knowledge gaps” around the use of puberty blockers in children and called for more research in the area.


World Medical Association rejects mandatory referral for euthanasia

A contentious proposal of mandatory referral—obliging doctors who object to euthanasia to refer to a willing doctor—was rejected last week by the World Medical Association in their International Code of Medical Ethics (ICoME).

There was strong opposition to the move including an open letter organised by the UK’s Anscombe Bioethics Centre which was signed by over 100 doctors and medical ethicists. Currently the WMA’s policies stipulate that “No physician should be forced to participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide, nor should any physician be obliged to make referral decisions to this end.”

A compromise agreement was reached such that patients should be immediately informed if their doctor has a conscientious objection and should be told about their right to consult another qualified physician. It will also provide that patients be given sufficient information to initiate such a consultation, but no mandatory referral.

Supporters of conscientious objection were relieved. “If these proposals had been approved, the impact on the ethical practice of medicine would have been profound,” said Dr Tim Millea, of the Catholic Medical Association. “Physicians would be required to provide or directly refer patients for physician-assisted suicide, abortion, transgender surgery, and other unethical measures.”


Brother Kevin hailed for lifetime contribution to homeless

The founder of Dublin’s Capuchin Day Centre for the homeless has received plaudits as he retired at 87 years of age. Pope Francis visited the centre when he was here in 2018.

Br Kevin was “going to be well missed,” a volunteer told the Irish Times. “All the homeless people are going to miss him terrible. The staff, we’re all upset over the fact that he has to leave. He’s just a great man. He gave his life to all the homeless people. I’ve seen people come in on their knees in here and Br Kevin helping them all out till they got sorted,” she said. “So we’re all heartbroken.”

As a newly professed brother in Dublin in 1969, he began to notice homeless people. “I saw the people coming to our church. I saw the people walking the streets. I saw the people looking into dustbins and taking food out of the dustbins”. As a follower of St Francis “I decided something should be done for them.” It was the beginnings of the Capuchin Day Centre.

The centre has gone from 50 people when it started to now having 200 people for breakfast, 600/700 for lunch from Monday to Saturday.

It has also seen a sharp increase in demand for food parcels. “Again when we started giving out food parcels we had maybe 100, 200, and now we have maybe 1,000 or maybe more every Wednesday. As well as that we give out baby food, baby nappies on a Monday morning and we can have up to 200 families for those.”


Hundreds expected to sue Tavistock clinic in the UK

Former patients and families of the UK’s only gender-altering clinic for children are expected to sue the British National Health Service over the clinic’s unsafe practices. The HSE in Ireland has also sent over 200 children to the clinic to use its “services”.

Lawyers in the UK estimate that up to 1,000 families in Britain could join a class-action lawsuit.
The move comes in the wake of the findings of the Cass report which has led to the Tavistock clinic having its closure scheduled for next year.

The Times reports the mass legal action is on behalf of “youngsters who claim they were rushed into taking life-altering puberty blockers”.

“They are accusing the gender identity development service [GIDS] at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust of multiple failures in its duty of care.”

The prosecution is reported to allege that staff at the clinic ‘recklessly prescribed’ puberty blockers and followed an “unquestioning, affirmative approach” to gender dysphoria.

Of the 234 Irish children referred to Tavistock, 32 were 10 years old or younger, and two were just 5 years of age, while many are believed to be girls experiencing issues related to autism.


Five-day trial set for Cardinal Zen, four others, in Hong Kong

A judge has set a five-day trial for Hong Kong Cardinal, Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, and four other defendants who face charges under China’s stringent national security law.

It will take place Sept. 19-23.

The 90-year-old cardinal was detained May 11 and charged with failing to properly register a fund to offer financial assistance to those involved in anti-government protests in 2019. It was disbanded last year after coming under scrutiny by authorities.

The national security law made participating in or supporting the pro-democracy movement crimes of subversion and collusion with foreign organizations and allowed for those remanded to be extradited to mainland China. Punishment ranges between a minimum of three years and a maximum of life imprisonment.

All five defendants pleaded not guilty. If convicted of the improper registration, each defendant could incur a fine of about $1,300.

A longtime critic of the Chinese government, Zen drew Beijing’s ire for his continued critique of the Vatican’s controversial 2018 deal with China regarding the appointment of bishops.


Secularism law having ‘devastating’ impact on religious minorities in Quebec

New research shows that three years after Quebec’s secularism law — commonly known as Bill 21 — was adopted, religious minorities in the province are feeling increasingly alienated and hopeless.

“Religious minority communities are encountering — at levels that are disturbing — a reflection of disdain, hate, mistrust and aggression,” Miriam Taylor, lead researcher and the director of publications and partnerships at the Association for Canadian Studies, told CBC in an interview.

“We even saw threats and physical violence,” Taylor said.

Bill 21, which passed in 2019, bars public school teachers, police officers, judges and government lawyers, among other civil servants in positions of authority, from wearing religious symbols — such as hijabs, crucifixes or turbans — while at work.


HSE will continue sending children to controversial UK gender clinic

The HSE has said it will continue to refer children with gender dysphoria to the Tavistock Clinic in the UK despite it being forced to close next year because of controversial practices such as giving children puberty blockers.

National Clinical Director for Integrated Care within the HSE Dr Siobhán Ni Bhriain said: “The service has not been deemed not safe, because if it was deemed completely unsafe it would have closed immediately, that’s the first thing.

“The second thing is the Tavistock will keep open for another year or so until the regional units are developed in the UK and increased numbers of people with the skills to deliver care to these children.

“So, we will continue to refer while Tavistock is still open, we will monitor extremely closely and we have for quite a number of years been exploring other options.”


Experts see Canada’s euthanasia laws as threat to disabled

Human rights advocates say that Canada’s euthanasia laws lack necessary safeguards, devalue the lives of disabled people and are prompting doctors and health workers to suggest the procedure to those who might not otherwise consider it.

Equally troubling, advocates say, are instances in which people have sought to be killed because they weren’t getting adequate government support to live.

Canada arguably has the world’s most permissive euthanasia rules — allowing people with serious disabilities to choose to be killed in the absence of any other medical issue. Despite this, it is is set to expand access next year, but critics say the system warrants further scrutiny now. Over 10,000 Canadians died by euthanasia last year.

Euthanasia “cannot be a default for Canada’s failure to fulfill its human rights obligations,” said Marie-Claude Landry, the head of its Human Rights Commission.

Landry said she shares the “grave concern” voiced last year by three U.N. human rights experts, who wrote that Canada’s euthanasia law appeared to violate the agency’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They said the law had a “discriminatory impact” on disabled people and was inconsistent with Canada’s obligations to uphold international human rights standards.


Church charity sends over €5 million in aid to Ukraine

Over €5 million in emergency aid has been sent to Ukraine by the pontifical charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), to help the local Catholic Church’s initiatives on behalf of its people.

“The worst consequences of the war will not be felt in the short-term: the psychological, physical and humanitarian effects will only become apparent later. Only God can heal the deeper wounds, but we can try to soften the more immediate needs and support the local Church so that it can remain on the ground”, says Thomas Heine-Geldern, executive president of ACN International.

“Thanks to the help of ACN benefactors, priests and religious can offset shortages of food, and basic hygiene and medical products felt by many of the internally displaced people. Furthermore, they can provide psychological and spiritual support to all those who are traumatised from losing their homes or loved ones”, explains Heine-Geldern.

“We are in daily contact with the whole country”, adds Magda Kaczmarek, who has headed the foundation’s Projects in Ukraine for the past 14 years. “In this way we can identify the projects that the local Church considers to be a priority and be flexible in our monthly aid”.


Most babies born out of wedlock in England and Wales last year

For the first time since records began, a majority of babies were born out of wedlock in England and Wales in 2021.

However, the figures came with one proviso: the period coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown, when weddings and civil partnership ceremonies were not allowed.

There were 624,828 live births registered in England and Wales in 2021, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

This includes 320,713 live births to women who were not married or in a civil partnership when they delivered – 51.3% of the total – compared to 304,115 live births to parents who were married or civilly partnered.

It is the first time this occurred since counting such statistics began in 1845.

Dr James Tucker, head of health analysis at the ONS, said the figures followed a “long-term trend of declining marriage rates and increasing numbers of cohabiting couples seen in recent decades”.

The fertility rate last year was 1.61 children per woman in 2021, well below the replacement level of 2.1.

However, the 2021 rate still remained below that of 2019.

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