News Roundup

Dutch doctor cleared in forced euthanasia case

A doctor in The Netherlands has been cleared of any wrongdoing after she euthanised a dementia patient without permission. The unnamed doctor first drugged the coffee of the female patient before beginning to administer a lethal injection. However, the patient woke during this phase and began to fight the doctor so that it became necessary for family members to restrain her until the procedure was complete. It subsequently emerged in paperwork that the patient had stated beforehand on several occasions “I don’t want to die”. Despite all of these considerations, a review board ruled that the doctor had acted in good faith, accepting that she had not informed the patient of her plan so as to avoid causing distress. Jacob Kohnstamm, chair of the Regional euthanasia Review Committee, now wants the case brought to court to examine the future implicatuons of the case. He said he was in favour of a trial “Not to punish the doctor, who acted in good faith and did what she had to do, but to get judicial clarity over what powers a doctor has when it comes to the euthanasia of patients suffering from severe dementia.”

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Call for Pope Francis to address Oireachtas in 2018

The Government has been called upon to arrange for Pope Francis to address the joint Houses of the Oireachtas during his visit to Ireland in 2018. Fianna Fáil Senator Aidan Davitt said during a radio interview that the Pope’s visit to attend the World Meeting of Families would present “an ideal opportunity” for the Pontiff to meet with legislators and address them as he had done in the United States in 2015 during the last Families gathering. Senator Davitt that Pope Francis “has a natural connection to Dublin as he lived here for over three months. Pope Francis spent a number of weeks studying English at the Jesuit Milltown Institute in Ranelagh, south Dublin over 30 years ago.” The World Meeting of Families will take place across three days in Dublin from 22 to 26 August 2018.
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Irish Girl Guides considers accepting transgender males

The Irish Girls Guides organisation is considering new guidelines to allow boys who self-identify as girls to become Guides. The revelation came after a move by Britain’s Girlguiding body to accept biological males who identify as female into its ranks. Linda Peters, chief executive officer of the Irish Girl Guides said, “Our policy is that anyone who lives their life as a female is welcome to join our organisation.” She added that the Irish body is currently taking guidance from the Girl Guides in Canada towards a full set of guidelines. “We asked their permission to adopt their guidelines if it suited us, but ours may be slightly different,” she said. Seeking to reassure parents, Peters said that any future move on transgender Guides would involve input from parents, unlike in Britain where the Guides do not consider it “best practice” to inform parents that their daughters may be sharing facilities with biological males who identify as female.

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Lack of places, not religion, the real issue for school admissions – survey

The Catholic Primary Schools Management Association (CPSMA) has said that the real barrier to school access is often lack of places and not religious difference. Responding to the ongoing debate around the so-called ‘baptism barrier’, the CPSMA conducted a survey of Catholic primary schools in the Dublin area and found that just 17 of 384 schools (4.4%) responding had denied admission based on grounds relating to a baptismal certificate. Overall, the survey found that just 96 of 7,750 failed enrolments were related to issues around baptism certificates. Unveiling the finding, the CPSMA’s general secretary Seamus Mulconry said: “It is striking that the overwhelming focus of public comment in the media on the issue of schools admission policy… has focused on an issue that affects only 1.2% of the applications that do not result in enrolment.” Pointing out that oversubscription of school places was a far bigger issue, Mr Mulconry said, “The real issue is one of resources and the need to create school places through the opening of new schools, or the expansion of existing ones.”

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Women’s Council calls for teenage contraception without parental consent

The National Women’s Council has stated that contraception should be made available to teenage girls without parental consent. In a submission to the United Nations ahead of Ireland’s appearance before that body’s committee on the elimination of discrimination against women, the council argues that Ireland’s laws around protecting the unborn put women’s lives at risk, thus the Government should remove “all existing legal, policy and cost barriers to adolescents’ and young women’s use of modern forms of contraception and ensure their access to contraceptive information and services without mandatory parental authorisation or notification”. The submission also presses for the Government to hold a referendum on removing the constitutional Eighth Amendment protection for the unborn.
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Three-parent baby born using controversial technique

A baby has been born in Ukraine through a controversial genetic modification technique involving three parents. The procedure known as Pronuclear Transfer, mooted as a treatment for maternally carried mitochondrial DNA sees the healthy nuclear material from a fertilised egg of two parents removed and placed into a donor egg from a second woman which has healthy mitochondria.
The procedure to deliver the child was led by Dr Valery Zukin, who said afterwards of this world first that the successful birth “opens up the possibility of augmenting embryos”. However, reacting to the birth announcement, Professor Adam Balen, chairman of the British Fertility Society, described it as “highly experimental” and also said it has not “been properly evaluated or scientifically proven”. The world’s first three-parent baby was born to US parents in Mexico last September, using a similar technique known as Maternal Spindle Transfer.
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US Divinity schools urge end of gendered ‘he’ and ‘him’ in referencing God

Two leading divinity schools in the United States have introduced gender-neutral language for staff and students when referring to God. The Divinity School of Duke University has issued new guidelines which call for ‘he’ and ‘him’ to be avoided in reference to God, suggesting instead that ‘God’ and ‘Godself’ be used. The guidelines also offer an example of gender-neutral metaphors such as “God is the father who welcomes his son, but she is also the woman searching for the lost coin”. Meanwhile, at Vanderbilt University, professors in the divinity school have been urged to give “consistent attention to the use of inclusive language, especially in relation to the Divine,” because campus policy “commits continuously and explicitly to include gender as an analysed category and to mitigate sexism”.
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Mexico City to legislate for assisted suicide

Mexico City is set to make assisted suicide a constitutional right. On January 31, the representatives of the Mexican capital’s Constituent Assembly will present the city’s new Constitution. Article 11 of that document states: “The right of determination and free will, should enable all people to freely and fully exercise their capabilities to live with dignity. The right to a dignified life implicitly contains the right to a dignified death.” The right will be confined to Mexico City as the capital independently elects its own legislative assembly, as all other states in the country do. Reacting to the move on assisted suicide, the Archdiocese of Mexico said: “If science determines that a person is alive but fails to provide the necessary help to keep said person alive, the crime of murder is in essence committed under the guise of ‘letting a person die’.” The archdiocese added that “Mexico City is converting a crime into a law.” The new law will come into effect on January 1, 2018.

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‘Gender confusion’ will follow same-sex marriage – Christian group

A Christian group in Australia has warned that gender would become “increasingly confused” if marriage is redefined in the country. Speaking at a sitting of a Senate committee inquiry, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) said marriage redefinition would have such an impact because “the complementarity of male and female is uniquely defined in the marriage law”. “Where gender is erased from the fundamental group unit of society, it logically follows that gender becomes increasingly confused at all levels in the community,” the ACL asserted. “If marriage is a child-centred institution it reasonably follows that it is not a category of relationship that can reasonably apply to same-sex relationships, which do not bear even the possibility of producing children.”

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Britain to allow single people to raise surrogate children

A British government plan to allow single people to raise surrogate children has been criticised as an attack on family values. The government move to amend the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 comes on foot of a ruling by a High Court judge in 2016 that confining the rearing of surrogate children to couples breached the human rights of single people. Reacting to the announcement, Ciarán Kelly of The Christian Institute said it was yet another attack on family values. “All the evidence shows that children do better when raised by their mother and father – and best of all when those parents are married. It is beneficial to the children. It is beneficial to society. Why does the Government want to undermine this?” Meanwhile, Robert Flello MP, vice-chairman of the All Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, stressed that the focus overall should be on the child. “The right for the child to have two parents is deliberately overlooked,” he said. “A child has the right to be brought up in a loving family by its mother and father and that should be the starting point for government and society.”

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