Thursday, 29 September 2011

For I know the plans I have for you... plans to give you hope and a future

'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'. (Jeremiah 29:11)

How often have you quoted these familiar words of Scripture to a brother or sister in need, or gained strength from them yourself when facing a new challenge? Jeremiah was writing to the Jewish exiles in Babylon, where they were to stay for 70 years after Nebuchadnezzar had captured Jerusalem and deported them. It was a time of difficulty for God's people, as described in the memorable words of Psalm 137: 'By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion'.

During that period of reflection and uncertainty after seeing their beloved city destroyed, the exiles needed to know that God was still with them and had plans for them. It turned out to be a very fruitful time of growth and consolidation as the nation rebuilt itself before the return to their homeland under Ezra and Zerubabbel. New leaders like Daniel and his friends, Nehemiah and Esther emerged during the course of the Babylonian, Mede and Persian Empires and were able to make a huge contribution to the societies in which they had been placed while not succumbing to moral compromise themselves.

In Jeremiah 29 the prophet encourages God's people not to separate themselves from the prevailing culture, but rather to get involved in helping to shape and serve it. They were to be 'in the world, but not of the world'.

'Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.' (v 5-7)

As the apostle Peter reminds us (1 Peter 2:11), as Christians we are also living as 'aliens and strangers' in a society that is in the main hostile to Christian faith and values. And many of us already occupy places of responsibility in it, or will move into them in the future.

We are called to be faithful to Christ by witnessing to him through our words and deeds, and in our concern for the society into which he has placed us. Like the Jews we also await our certain restoration to our 'promised land' – not an earthly Jerusalem, but rather the new heavens and new earth.

Let's equip and encourage each other to play our part well in the generation and situation in which God has placed us.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Statement from Ministry of Equality and Diversity on Offensive Christian Symbols, Titles, Songs and Abbreviations

The Ministry of Equality and Diversity welcomes several positive developments over the last week which indicate that Britain is continuing to evolve into a more liberal and tolerant society. We wish to encourage further similar moves to eradicate from public life all Christian titles, symbols, songs and abbreviations which might cause offence to any members of our multicultural and multi-faith national community.

We welcome the decision of the General Medical Council to proceed with a disciplinary case against a doctor who suggested that to a patient during a consultation that ‘Jesus’ might be able to help him. We recommend that other professional bodies adopt similar approaches to those holding any public office or role who suggest to any non-Christian person that they might receive benefit from an examination of the Christian faith.

We welcome the decision of the manufacturers of a new DVD on Thomas the Tank Engine to replace the word ‘Christmas’ with the words ‘winter holiday’ and recommend that other publishers of children’s books and electronic media adopt a similar approach. To use the Christian name for winter holidays is inappropriate and runs the risk of offending Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Pagans and those of other faiths and also atheists who may choose to celebrate the winter break in a different way.

We welcome the decision of the BBC to replace the abbreviations AD (Anno Domini – Year of the Master) and BC (Before Christ) with the less offensive CE (Common Era) and BCE (Before Common Era). Whereas we recognize that these latter terms still use the birth of their Christ as their reference point, the more neutral replacement abbreviations are less likely to cause offence to Muslims, Buddhists and Secularists who might prefer to have years dated from the births of Mohammed, Siddharta Gautama or Charles Darwin. We intend to launch a public consultation in the New Year to ascertain support for a new numbering system for dates based on a rolling average of the birth dates of a range of religious, political and societal leaders.

We commend the example of Jeremy Paxman as a broadcaster who has willingly adopted the new CE/BCE abbreviations but remain deeply concerned about a picture today in the Daily Mail showing Paxman alongside members of the ‘Corpus Christi College’ University Challenge Team. Whilst respecting and upholding the right of all university students regardless of race, religion or creed to participate in this television programme we are concerned about the use of overtly Christian names of some of the colleges at some of the country's elite universities. We would recommend that students from such colleges as Corpus Christi (Body of Christ), Jesus College and any College bearing the Prefix St (Saint) appear on the programme under an alternative name so as not to cause offence to viewers from other faith communities,

In our endeavour to eradicate offensive Christian titles, titles, songs and abbreviations from public life in the interests of equality and diversity we would like to announce several future measures to be introduced shortly.

The British flag and the flags of the various countries making up the United Kingdom are to be redesigned as they are composed of an assortment of ‘crosses’ (Christian symbols) carrying the names of various historic Christian saints. A national competition for new flag designs will be held in the New Year and a less offensive neutral design introduced next autumn.

The national anthem with its reference to ‘God’ ‘saving’ the queen is offensive to those who do not accept the Christian concept of God or the need to be ‘saved’ according to the Christian understanding of that word. In addition the song ‘Jerusalem’ with its reference to the Israeli capital (offensive to Palestinians and many Muslims) and suggestion that Jesus Christ once visited Britain (for which there is no historical evidence) along with ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ with its overt Christian language and imagery are to be redrafted. A consultation in the New Year will seek non-offensive multi-faith substitute lyrics for these songs and in the meantime their public performance is to be suspended.

All British coins are to be recalled and reissued following a redesign. The letters DGREGFD which appear after the Queen’s name on the coins standing for ‘Dei Gratia Regina Fidei Defensor’ (‘By the Grace of God, Queen, Defender of the Faith’) are offensive to many who understand Latin and are not followers of the Christian faith. DGREGFD is to be replaced by the briefer, more contemporary and more easily memorable BYWI ('Because you're worth it').

Whilst we commend the adoption of the neutral secular images of Sir John Houblon, Adam Smith and Charles Darwin on the £50, £20 and £10 notes respectively, we will be recommending also that the image of Elizabeth Fry, a Quaker and Christian philanthropist, be replaced by a more suitable figure on the £5 note. The deflationary pressure created by the withdrawal of all coins and five pound notes is to to be counterbalanced by the temporary issue of an appropriate number of £4, £3, £2 and £1 notes carrying the images of Richard Dawkins, Stephen Fry, Elton John and Jeremy Clarkson respectively.

We will be publishing a further list of Christian abbreviations, songs, symbols and titles to be amended shortly.

Thank you for (your) instant cooperation (tfic).

Late blight has wiped out my tomato crop but all is not lost

Last week late blight wiped out my tomato crop. It only took days after the tell-tale oily black blotches first appeared on the stems, fruit and leaves for nearly 40 plants to be destroyed.

I managed to salvage only a couple of small bucket loads of green fruit, much of which has since succumbed.

And as for the plants it is ‘bag, burn or bury’ so mine all ended up in black kleen sacks bound for landfill.

Late blight is neither a bacterium nor fungus, but an oomycete spread by wind-borne spores which thrives in wet weather.

Once established (my recent absence abroad did not help) it rips through a crop with ease.

Caused by Phytophthora infestans, it was the disease responsible for the Irish potato famine, a period of mass starvation, disease and emigration between 1845 and 1852.

During the famine approximately 1 million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland, causing the island’s population to fall by between 20% and 25%.

Although blight ravaged potato crops throughout Europe during the 1840s, the impact and human cost in Ireland – where one-third of the population was entirely dependent on the potato for food – was exacerbated by a host of political, social and economic factors which remain the subject of bitter historical debate.

For me the destruction of my tomato crop was an annoyance. I hate wasting time on any fruitless activity and was frustrated to lose what would have been a bumper crop having spent so much care in growing them from seed and then staking, tying, watering, feeding and pruning the plants.

But at the end of the day Sainsbury’s easily filled the gap and we are still eating three square meals a day.

Not so for the vulnerable Irish in the 19th century.

Many of my ancestors came from Ireland – most notably the Moloneys from County Clare and the Purdys from Ulster – and most of these left the Emerald Isle around or shortly after the time of the famine to emigrate to New Zealand.

In fact if it hadn’t been for the famine I, and many other New Zealanders, probably would never have existed as my various Irish, Scottish and English forebears would never have met down under.

The famine had other sequelae too.

In 1857, four young Irishmen began a weekly prayer meeting in the village of Connor near Ballymena. This meeting is generally regarded as the origin of the 1859 Christian revival that swept through most of the towns and villages in the north of Ireland and in due course brought 100,000 converts into the churches changing the whole history of the country and touching the whole world through the missionary endeavour that followed.

Every cloud has a silver lining and, as we sang this morning in church, behind his frowning providence God hides a smiling face. You never quite know what he is doing as the mysteries of life unfold. So it is best to trust and to wait rather to doubt and despair.

We only have a small part of the whole picture.

But I have also learnt a valuable lesson. Tomatoes thrive best in hot dry conditions – and I will ensure my plants have more cover next year.

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
(Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Arise Sir Richie! We salute you. 100 tests down and still going.

As Kiwis we all watched last night’s world cup rugby showdown between New Zealand and France in fear and trembling in view of the painful memories of the disastrous losses of 1999 and 2007.

But it was a consummate display by the All Blacks who ran in five tries to two to turn out 37-17 winners and secure their place in the Southern Hemisphere side of the draw to play a quarter final against Scotland or Argentina.

Barring a major upset France now look likely to meet England on the North side of the draw.

There are still areas of the game to work on. We won the second half only by 18-14 due to a French intercept and later a second opportunistic try following a quickly taken penalty, along with some misdirected passes and lost attacking opportunities on our part, but the overall margin was comfortable.

But for me the real emotion was in seeing Richie McCaw, All Black captain, secure his 100th cap – the first All Black to do so.

After a tough year beginning with the Christchurch earthquake, which the Crusaders team endured like all other residents, McCaw almost led his provincial team to victory in the Super Fifteen final, until glory was snatched by some Genia genius. Glory in Queensland was not to be and sometimes winning is not everything.

But we all want to see Richie raise the Webb-Ellis cup on 24 October.

The signs spectators held at last night's game said it all. There was ‘Richie McCaw. Marry me. I’m French’ and of course ‘Arise Sir Richie’.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has already hinted at the honour.

Speaking ahead of the first of a regular series of media briefings on preparations for the World Cup, Key said the ‘dream scenario’ would be a New Zealand versus Australia final – ‘with a substantial All Black victory’.

He added there was ‘massive pressure’ on McCaw and his team, because New Zealanders want their team to win so desperately. Asked if there was an honour in it for McCaw if the All Blacks won, Key said he hoped so. ‘Can't think of anything more joyous than Sir Richard McCaw,’ he said.

Well an Australia v New Zealand final is not going to happen. Ireland has made sure of that and has in the process virtually guaranteed a North South final. And an All Black victory might not happen either, although we will be rooting for them all the way.

But regardless, today is the day to take off our hats to Richie McCaw and salute his individual brilliance and excellence in leadership.

McCaw’s brief speech at the end of tonight’s match was typically understated. The great captain first expressed his satisfaction about donning his 100th cap at Eden Park against the French in a world cup and beating them – it doesn’t come better than that. He then modestly gave credit to his team, personal supporters and the great New Zealand public and almost, it seemed, shed a tear as the plaudits rained down and the roar of the crowd reached a crescendo.

I leave the final words to a tribute to McCaw written just before the match (fittingly) on ‘Roar’ and will leave you to read the full article, ‘Arise, Sir Richie McCaw-100 Test matches’, on their website.

On Saturday night, at Eden Park, we’ll see something quite extraordinary.

Every person at the ground, every person around New Zealand watching on TVs in pubs and clubs and at home, and every rugby mad Kiwi around the world, will stand as one and acknowledge something very, very special.

For the first time in the history of the great game in New Zealand, we will finally see an All Black attaining the almost unheard of target of 100 Test matches.

31-year-old Richard Hugh McCaw will lead out the All Blacks in the Pool A decider against France and earn himself legendary status above and beyond all those before him.

Playing at open side flanker, he has continually put his body on the line in a position of absolute physical presence. His ability at the breakdown is still second to none and his willingness to ‘take one for the team’ has earned him the respect of his fellow teammates and the ire of opponents.

McCaw is continually targeted for the threat he is, and subsequently ends up on the receiving end of late tackles and more off the ball ‘gamesmanship’ than what others may endure.

Since his debut against Ireland in 2001, McCaw has been our first choice No. 7, and has been regarded as the best in his position for most of those years. Winning the IRB Player of the Year Award a record three times is proof of that.

100 Test matches – legendary stuff. If playing 100 Test matches and becoming the first All Black to do so, while also being the most capped All Black captain in history, isn’t enough to knight Richie McCaw, then winning a World Cup would guarantee it.

Arise, Sir Richie. We salute you.

Friday, 23 September 2011

BBC report of Stuart Mungall case is factually inaccurate and seriously misleading

Retired actor Stuart Mungall, 71, has today been given a twelve month sentence suspended for two years for smothering his 69-year-old wife Joan Mungall with a pillow at their home in Tooting, south London.

The BBC headline reporting the case, ‘Wife-killing Yorkie advert man walks free from court’, is factually inaccurate and seriously misleading but sadly in keeping with the BBC’s adopted role as a cheerleader for assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Mungall confessed to and was convicted of manslaughter for killing his wife without her cooperation or consent but he has been given a reduced sentence on the grounds of diminished responsibility in view of the fact that he suffered from depression as a result of the strain in caring for her.

The comments of the judge in passing sentence make this fully clear and leave us in no doubt that no one can ‘take the life of another as (Mungall) did with impunity’.

STV reports the comments of Peter Beaumont QC as follows:

The judge said: ‘You come before the court as a man who has had a praiseworthy life achieving only distinction in your professional and business life.’

‘You have earned the plaudits of all who have known you, and they have recognised the devotion you showed to your wife Joan and the care you gave her as she suffered a degenerative and progressive brain disease for which there was no curative treatment.’

‘You had been married for 40 years and the evidence before the court, not just from those who have provided statements gathered by your solicitors, but from some of the witnesses interviewed by police, indicates just how happy and fulfilling your marriage was for the two of you.’

‘The evidence is compelling that as your wife's condition degenerated over the years from 2008 when the diagnosis of degenerative illness was made, you were not only her sole carer but you were caring for her most basic needs with unstinting devotion.’
The judge said Mungall's plea to manslaughter ‘reduces your responsibility for your act of killing her but it does not extinguish it.’

‘You will have to shoulder that responsibility for the rest of your life. But the public are entitled and will rightly look to the court in expectation that the sentence I pass measures that responsibility accurately and underlines the fact that you cannot take the life of another as you did with impunity.’

The law prohibiting intentional killing must be upheld and does not need changing. The penalties that it holds in reserve act as a strong disincentive to exploitation and abuse whilst giving some discretion to judges in sentencing to allow for mitigating circumstances in hard cases.

Any change in the law to legitimize so-called mercy killing or assisted suicide in any circumstances at all would place pressure on vulnerable people to end their lives and would in turn encourage those with a financial or emotional interest in their deaths, to kill those who are sick, elderly, depressed or disabled.

It is regrettable that we have to look to STV rather than our national broadcaster for accurate and responsible reporting.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Excellent Radio Five Live documentary on Rugby world cup and Christchurch earthquake

There was an excellent documentary on Radio Five Live tonight featuring Ian Robertson which reviewed the Christchurch earthquake in the light of the rugby world cup.

Robertson interviews both the Mayor of Christchurch and former All Black captain Tane Norton.

You can download it here. It is currently on this page but will not be there for long.

Previous blogs on the Christchurch earthquake

1. The Canterbury Crusaders: Sometimes winning is not everything

2. Christchurch: Tears for the loss, Tears for the courage, Tears for the future

3. Memorial services for victims of the Christchurch earthquake and a prayer for New Zealand

The Archbishop of Wales is right to raise concerns about presumed consent for organ donation

The Archbishop of Wales has been accused of being ‘unChristian’ for daring to criticise the Welsh government’s intention to bring in presumed consent for organ donation.

The Welsh Government has repeatedly stated it wants to bring in legislation to introduce a so-called ‘soft opt-out’ system in which patients are presumed to consent to their organs being donated unless they decide to be taken off the register, and where close relatives would still have a final say. Recently it said in a statement that it intends publishing a White Paper outlining a system of soft presumed consent in late October or early November; further consultation will follow, with a view to legislation being introduced in 2012.

The Archbishop, Dr Barry Morgan, used his presidential address to the Church in Wales’ Governing Body to claim that people’s organs should be donated to others ‘as a free gift’ and not treated like assets of the state.

But his comments have drawn an angry reaction from patients and medical groups, with the British Medical Association responding to the speech by reaffirming its commitment to the Welsh Government policy, and the chair of one of Wales' leading charity groups saying he was ‘disappointed’ with the Archbishop's comments.

Presumed Consent (PC) for organ donation is presently utilised in 22 countries. With a PC law, all are deemed organ donors after their deaths unless they opt out of the system.

Wales aims to be the first UK country to introduce such a system.

Under the proposed ‘soft’ system of presumed consent, health professionals would still consult with families on whether they wish their relative to donate an organ after death.

The British Medical Association (BMA) affirmed its support for presumed consent earlier this year but it remains controversial amongst doctors and many transplant surgeons oppose it.

The Organ Donation Taskforce established a series of expert working groups to help gather evidence and advice on this matter. The resulting report was delivered in November 2008. It recommended that the UK’s current system of opt-in be retained.

Earlier this year CMF made a submission to the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee consultation on the matter.

The consultation was launched under the grandiose title of ‘Pre-legislative scrutiny of the proposed Legislative Competence Order in Council on Health and Health Services: Presumed Consent for Organ Donation’

Our submission expressed ethical and public policy concerns about the concept of presumed consent for organ donation and concluded that presumed consent should not be introduced anywhere in the UK.

Figures released earlier this year show that the number of people on the NHS Organ Donor Register has now reached a record 18 million. This means that in the UK as a whole, nearly 30% of people are registered to donate their organs after their death. There has been a 26% increase in organ donation since 2007 and we are on course to deliver the 50% increase by 2012-13 targeted by the ODTF report [NHS Blood and Transplant, Thursday 23 June].

This increase is to be welcomed. However, we know there is still a shortage of organ donors and, as a result, long waiting lists for transplant operations in the UK.

The BMA current policy on presumed consent assumes that changing legislation in the UK from an opt-in to an opt-out system, or presumed consent, will significantly increase the number of potential donors.

But the assumption is significantly flawed.

There are many factors beside legislation which affect donor rates. These include public awareness, religion, cultural attitudes to donation, hospital processes, provision of intensive care beds and numbers of road deaths, to name a few. In Spain, an important factor is ensuring that the relatives of potential organ donors are always approached by someone specifically trained for the purpose.

The experience of Spain is interesting. It does have a higher number of donors than the UK, and has presumed consent legislation but this is not a simple causal relationship.

It is acknowledged by the director of the national transplant organisation in Spain that the increase in organ donation during the 1990s could not be attributed to a change in legislation which had remained the same since 1979. In fact, the improvements in donor rates in Spain followed the implementation of a comprehensive national procurement system. (NHSBT statement 2008).

Moreover, although some European countries with opt-out systems do have higher donation rates than the UK there is no clear evidence that opt-out is the sole factor. Sweden has an opt-out law but their donation rate is lower than that of the UK. And within almost all countries, large local variations exist in donation rates, despite a common legislative background.

Moreover we should remember that the increase we have seen in the UK has been achieved without presumed consent but by implementing some of the recommendations from the Organ Donation Taskforce, especially improved promotion and public recognition of organ donation.

The issue of presumed consent is about more than donor numbers though. We cannot ignore the ethical and practical concerns it raises. These include concerns around the ascertaining and timing of a diagnosis of death, concerns that treatment before death could be influenced in some way by the preservation of organs after death, concerns for some about the value of bodily integrity, and what is sacred about bodily death, and concerns that presumed consent undermines donation as a gift and erode trust in professionals – a concern equally held by recipients and their families. And of course concerns that silence indicates a lack of understanding rather than informed consent to the policy.

In short, there is no convincing evidence presumed consent legislation would make a difference in the UK to donation rates. However we do know it would generate ethical concerns by assuming consent even when it has not been given.

Instead we should be welcoming the increase in donors registered since 2007 that has been achieved through other means and discuss how we can build on that success.

The Archbishop of Wales is right to raise concerns and is not being unchristian in doing so. The end of saving lives does not justify any possible means.

More hype about embryonic stem cells from the BBC

The BBC today is running a new stem cell story with the grandiose title ‘UK medics lead Europe's first embryonic stem cell trial’ as follows:

Doctors at Moorfields Eye hospital in London have been given the go-ahead to carry out Europe's first clinical trial using human embryonic stem cells.

They will inject retinal cells into the eyes of 12 patients with an incurable disease, Stargardt's macular dystrophy, which causes progressive sight loss.

The disease develops in childhood and affects around one in 10,000 people.
It causes the gradual loss of central vision leaving only peripheral sight.

The trial will test the safety of using replacement retinal cells known as retinal pigment epithelial cells, derived from human embryonic stem cells.

Health correspondent Fergus Walsh then goes on to quote a source from the commercial company investing in this research who is typically effusive in his praise:

The trial is a partnership with an American bio-tech company Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) which has already begun treating patients in California.

Gary Rabin, chairman and CEO of ACT described the Moorfields trial as ‘another milestone for the field of regenerative medicine’.

Well isn’t that a surprise. The chairman of the biotechnology company that stands to benefit is hailing it as a milestone. We then get from Walsh the usual overhyped claims about embryonic stem cell treatments that are par for the course from the BBC:

Supporters say embryonic stem cell therapy has the potential to treat not only blindness but a huge range of disorders, from heart disease to cancer.

Well they would wouldn't they. And then we are told that the only objection to the procedure is an ethical one:

Opponents object to the procedure because it began with the destruction of a human embryo.

I’ve come to the conclusion that this latest story is causing such excitement for five main reasons:

1.Our media are obsessed with any story involving embryonic stem cells despite the fact that these entities have not yet provided any treatments for any human disease after more than ten years of hype (By contrast adult and umbilical stem cells have already provided treatments for over 80 diseases – see my Triple Helix review)

2.Because there is ethical controversy in their use (as harvesting them involves the destruction of human embryos) it provides an opportunity for the media to revive the myth that religious zealots are trying to hold back scientific advance and stop millions of people being cured from terrible diseases.

3.The science correspondents writing for our national newspapers and the BBC seem not to read medical journals any more but simply regurgitate press releases produced by commercial companies (like ACT) who wish to promote their products and improve their public image.

4.ACT have lots of money and a very good PR machine.

5.British scientists are worried about research funding in the current economic climate and so are trying to attract public and media attention in the hope of attracting grants so they are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of gullible politicians and members of the public with exaggerated claims.

If you go to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website which logs current clinical trials you will find there are 3,576 listings of trials involving adult stem cells and 168 involving umbilical stem cells. These therapies are increasingly well established and pose no ethical problems (and so are of little interest to the British media).

By contrast today’s story is of the first European clinical trial involving embryonic stem cells after over a decade of breath-holding. There are no results yet and no scientific papers yet published in any peer-reviewed journals.

This story seems to be in the news simply because ACT has decided to announce to the world that they have started a clinical trial involving a possible future treatment that has not yet (and may well never) actually deliver.

And the BBC has willingly given them the international news coverage they covet so much. According to Google news 245 media outlets are already running the story.

For those interested about real advances in this area involving ethically derived stem cells I list below four previous articles from this blog over the last year reviewing landmark research about which you will learn virtually nothing from the British media.

1.American scientists make new breakthrough in producing embryonic-like stem cells by ethical means but British media doesn’t notice

2.If you want to know about advances in the treatment of spinal cord injury don’t read any British newspaper or ask the BBC

3.Further Stem Cell advance brings clinical trials with ethically produced embryonic-like stem cells one step closer

4.Three exciting news stories about ethical stem cell treatments this month

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Dignity in Dying misleads supporters about opposition’s resources in order to boost campaign to legalise assisted suicide

Not so long ago I received a fund-raising letter written by Edward Turner (pictured), Treasurer of ‘Dignity in Dying’, formerly known as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.

Dignity in Dying now campaigns for a change in the law to allow assisted suicide for people who are, in its own words, ‘mentally competent and terminally ill’.

The VES changed its name to DID on 23 January 2006. It was no coincidence that the very next day, on 24 January, the same Edward Turner and his two sisters accompanied his mother Anne, a GP from Bath, to the Dignitas suicide facility in Zurich Switzerland where she took her own life by drinking a lethal draught of barbiturate.

They were accompanied on the trip by a BBC news crew led by health correspondent Fergus Walsh who later played himself in the BBC dramatization of the events.

Dr Turner had a degenerative neurological condition called progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a condition which normally carries a life expectancy of 5-7 years. Actor Dudley Moore died naturally from the same condition.

Edward Turner’s recent fundraising letter claims that ‘the Swiss government is determined to restrict the right to die in Switzerland to its own residents’, a belief for which there is very little evidence indeed. However the claim is intended to boost further support for a change in the law in this country on the basis that the Swiss route will soon close to British citizens.

He then goes on to announce that Dignity in Dying will be bringing back another bill to Westminster ‘in this Parliament’ in order to legalise assisted suicide and that, in addition, Margo Macdonald MSP is preparing to relaunch a similar bill in Scotland (Ms Macdonald’s last bill was defeated by an overwhelming margin of 85 to 16 in November 2010). DID, according to its Summer newsletter, is also planning a bill for the Isle of Man.

So we can see, with this degree of activity planned, why more money is needed,

Turner’s plug for funds is prefaced by the following claim:

‘As ever, the rich and influential lobby which campaigns against us will put all their considerable resources into preventing change. The last time we brought a Bill before Parliament, these groups spent millions of pounds, not just to undermine the Bill, but to discredit the people who backed it’. (Emphasis Turner’s)

The last bill DID brought to Westminster was Lord’s Joffe’s 'Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill' in 2006. On 12 May that year, the very day the bill was defeated in the House Lords by a majority of 148 to 100, Polly Toynbee wrote an article for the Guardian claiming that the opposition, the Care Not Killing Alliance had spent ‘millions of pounds’ opposing DID. This article is the likely source for Turner’s assertion.

The claim was actually completely false, as a letter written by then CNK chair Brian Iddon MP, and still available on the CNK website, asserts (The Guardian refused to publish it). I quote the letter here in full:

Dear Sir,

Polly Toynbee's claim (Guardian, 12 May) that the Care Not Killing Alliance spent millions of pounds opposing Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, is massively at variance with the truth.

Care Not Killing was officially launched on 31 January 2006, as an umbrella organisation committed to providing best quality palliative care for the dying and opposing any weakening of the law on euthanasia. The alliance includes a total of 32 professional groups, human rights groups, healthcare providers and faith groups, all of which pay an annual subscription, and some of which provide administrative support.

The document by the British Humanist Association, on which Toynbee's claim was based, arrived at a figure of £11.8 million for the campaign simply by adding up the annual incomes of about 20 organisations thought to be members of the alliance. In reality the alliance spent just over £30,000 on the campaign in launching a website, and in producing and distributing a leaflet, DVD of doctors' interviews, briefing paper, a booklet analysing Lord Joffe's Bill and an internet television programme. No one member group contributed more than £5,000 to this total.

This activity, coordinated through, led to a grass roots public response with over 100,000 signatures on a petition in just four weeks, thousands of letters to Peers and extensive coverage in the national press and broadcast media.

The campaign was successful because a small number of volunteers worked nights and weekends to mobilise ordinary people to make their objections known. Peers turned out en masse to oppose the bill because they were convinced by sound argument that it should not proceed.

Brian Iddon
Care Not Killing Alliance

Edward Turner is fully aware of these facts but has chosen to propagate the false claims of Toynbee and the British Humanist Association in order to raise money for his campaign.

Care Not Killing still campaigns today, but employs one full time administrator and a part-time Scottish policy officer. Last year its income was less than £10,000.

By contrast Dignity in Dying employs over a dozen staff and in 2010 had an income of £868,000 made up of £142,000 in subscriptions, £406,000 in legacies and £320,000 in donations. It also gets considerable help in advancing its cause from the BBC.

It’s a free country, of course, and DID like any lobby group is fully entitled to raise funds from supporters to further its objectives.

But it shouldn’t be misrepresenting the truth to do it.

Growing pressure on disabled people heightens fears about euthanasia

Disabled people are being put under much more pressure in the current social and economic climate.

The disabled people’s charity Scope, in collaboration with ComRes, has published survey results from a series of quarterly polls, which show that disabled people feel that discrimination against them is getting worse.

With Demos, Scope have also published Coping with the Cuts, a report that assesses the impact of cuts to social care budgets on disabled families across England and Wales.

A related set of figures from the police demonstrates that disability related hate-crimes are up a fifth on last year.

Finally, a report by the EHRC has found that although high-profile disability harassment receives police attention and media coverage, low-level criminality, abuse and harassment are so regular that they are regularly ignored by the authorities. Many disabled people consider them to be inevitable.

No wonder that all the major disabled advocacy groups, including NCIL, Scope, UKDPC, RADAR and Not Dead Yet UK, remain firmly opposed to any change in the law that would allow euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Given the underlying prejudice and discrimination that already exists, they know that in an environment of increasing economic pressure, they would be subtly leant upon to end their lives if Britain were to follow the path the Netherlands and Belgium have taken to give doctors the power to end life.

I previously reported on Scope’s warning about the 'headlong rush' to allow assisted suicide in Britain and a previous Comres poll which found that 70 per cent of disabled people were concerned that such a change would lead to pressure being placed on them to end their lives prematurely.

Scope boss Richard Hawkes has claimed that Lord Falconer's discredited Commission on Assisted Dying, which was set up to examine whether a change in the law is needed, has already made up its mind. And he fears disabled people could feel under pressure to take their own lives.

This warning followed the launch of the Resistance Campaign in June 2010 when disabled people from across the UK came together in Westminster in order to ensure that legislation prohibiting assisted suicide and euthanasia remained in place.

Baroness Jane Campbell of Surbiton, convenor for Not Dead Yet UK, has previously pointed out that the likelihood of cuts in services across the country would create additional challenges for disabled people. She said:

'There have been two attempts to weaken assisted dying legislation in the past four years, with further discussions taking place in the Scottish parliament now. We face a bleak situation if calls for assisted suicide to be lawful are renewed whilst vital services are being withdrawn or denied.'

'Disabled and terminally ill people need help and support to live, not to die. We cannot allow others to speak for us; especially those who seek to offer us the choice of a premature death. It is not a choice – it is to abandon us.'

Disabled people have been likened to the canaries in the coalmine – they are often the first to spot danger on the horizon. We ignore their voices at our peril.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Emmerdale actors up for award for assisted suicide portrayal – some lessons for the BBC

Emmerdale actors Pauline Quirke and Danny Miller - who were at the heart of a controversial assisted suicide storyline in the soap - have been shortlisted for a string of gongs at this year’s Inside Soap Awards.

Viewers saw their characters, Hazel Rhodes and Aaron Livesy, being asked to help end the life of Jackson Walsh, played by Marc Silcock, after he was left paralysed in an accident.

Pauline and Danny are up for the best actress and best actor award respectively while the storyline is nominated for best exit. Pauline is also shortlisted for best newcomer while Danny is nominated for best dramatic performance.

I am not an Emmerdale fan but I was interested to see the way the Soap is continuing to develop the story following the assisted suicide of a character with spinal injury.

As I blogged previously the number of people with spinal cord injury wanting to kill themselves is very low indeed. The overwhelming majority, with the right kind of support, eventually come to the point where they are able to find meaning and purpose in life despite suffering from a serious disability.

The programme was therefore not surprisingly criticised by disability rights groups for misrepresenting the lives and attitudes of disabled people.

However, as I later commented, it appears since to have taken a more realistic view about the huge ramifications for the lives and relationships of those left behind after an assisted suicide.

A report in the Daily Mirror, ‘Emmerdale: Aaron and Hazel struggle to come to terms with Jackson's assisted suicide’, has described some of the ensuing chaos.

And now Aaron is resorting to self-harming. Miller has recently described his character’s reaction:

‘He’s still very angry about everything. He thinks he and Hazel should have given Jackson longer to adapt to his altered life, although Jackson was pleading to die. Aaron loathes himself and he won't let anyone in to help him. The self-harming is how he's dealing with this… He’s so full of self-hatred nothing else matters. He won't stop this until someone steps in.’

The way the media handles suicide is incredibly important – as it may have the effect of either increasing suicides or preventing them – the Werther and Papageno effects respectively.

The BBC, which has been justifiably called a ‘cheerleader for assisted suicide’ by portraying it in a positive light, could learn some lessons from Emmerdale.

The WHO is wrong about the two major causes of death world-wide

According to the World Health Organisation 57 million people die every year world-wide.

WHO says that cardiovascular diseases kill more people each year than any others. In 2008, 7.3 million people died of ischaemic heart disease, 6.2 million from stroke or another form of cerebrovascular disease. That’s a total of 13.5 million.

Tobacco use is a major cause of many of the world’s top killer diseases – including cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive lung disease and lung cancer. In total, tobacco use is responsible for the death of almost one in 10 adults worldwide – that’s 5.7 million per year. Smoking is often the hidden cause of the disease recorded as responsible for death.

WHO lists the top ten killers worldwide as follows:

Ischaemic heart disease - 7.25 million deaths
Stroke and other cerebrovascular disease - 6.15
Lower respiratory infections - 3.46
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - 3.28
Diarrhoeal diseases - 2.46
HIV/AIDS - 1.78
Trachea, bronchus, lung cancers - 1.39
Tuberculosis - 1.34
Diabetes mellitus - 1.26
Road traffic accidents - 1.21

Of course the distribution of deaths is different in different countries.

In high-income countries more than two thirds of all people live beyond the age of 70 and predominantly die of chronic diseases: cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive lung disease, cancers, diabetes or dementia. Lung infection remains the only leading infectious cause of death.

In low-income countries less than one in five of all people reach the age of 70, and more than a third of all deaths are among children under 15. People predominantly die of infectious diseases: lung infections, diarrhoeal diseases, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Complications of pregnancy and childbirth together continue to be leading causes of death, claiming the lives of both infants and mothers.

More than 8 million deaths in 2008 were among children under five years of age, and 99% of them were in low- and middle-income countries.

So here are WHO’s big three: Cardiovascular disease – 13.5 million deaths; Tobacco – 5.7 million; Childhood diseases – 8 million.

But these three are not actually the biggest killers.

About 18 million deaths annually are either directly, or indirectly, the result of poverty.

But even poverty – which kills about one in three people on the planet - is not the greatest killer.

The WHO has also failed to count 45 million deaths every year because in reality there are not 57 million annually but 102 million.

The WHO has failed to count 3 million stillbirths and 42 million abortions.

There is no one more vulnerable, more innocent and killed in greater numbers than the child in the womb.

Together poverty and abortion kill 60 million people every year. These two causes account for 60% of all deaths.

Every Christian who cares about human rights should be aware of the effects of both poverty and abortion on the world’s most vulnerable people and every Christian and every church should be doing something about both issues.

Christians must be concerned for vulnerable people – whether they are children on a garbage heap in a developing world city or defenceless babies in the womb. Both are equally important to God.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8,9)

Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. (Proverbs 24:10-12)

The cost of tackling non-communicable diseases worldwide each year in poor countries is less than 1% of what we spent bailing out British banks

The BBC has reported on the World Health Organization’s plan to tackle non-communicable diseases like heart disease, which it says now pose a greater global burden than infectious diseases.

‘Lifestyle-related’ diseases are now the leading cause of death worldwide, killing 36 million people a year. Cardiovascular diseases were responsible for 48% of these deaths, cancers 21%, chronic respiratory diseases 12% and diabetes 3%.

Cancer, diabetes, heart diseases and lung diseases are normally thought of as diseases of the affluent West, but 80% of all deaths caused by them happen in the developing world. Much of the toll is in low and middle-income countries and this is where efforts must be focused, says WHO. It suggests affordable steps governments should take.

The list includes measures that target the population as a whole, such as excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol, smoke-free indoor workplaces and public places, as well as campaigns to reduce salt and dangerous fats in foods.

Other tactics focus on individuals and include screening and treatment for cardiovascular disease and cervical cancer, as well as immunisation against hepatitis B to prevent liver cancer.

WHO estimates the total cost for adopting these strategies in all low-and middle-income countries would be $11.4bn (£7.2bn) per year. Many countries have already adopted the public health interventions, and have seen a marked reduction in disease incidence and mortality.

In comparison, the cumulative costs of heart diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, cancer and diabetes in poorer countries are expected to top $7 trillion (£4.4 trillion) in 2011-2025, an average of nearly $500bn (£316bn) a year, according to the World Economic Forum.

£7.2 billion seems a lot of money. But it is really a very small investment indeed alongside the bill for rescuing British banks following the near-collapse of the financial system in 2008-2009.

According to the National Audit Office the Government spent £117 billion buying shares in banks and lending directly to financial institutions.

The audit office also suggested that the bill could rise further, as the total of investments, guarantees, loans and insurance schemes established to support the banks meant that the taxpayer was liable for up to £850 billion — £40,000 for each family.

These commitments include buying £76bn of shares in Royal Bank of Scotland and the Lloyds Banking Group; indemnifying the Bank of England against losses incurred in providing more than £200bn of liquidity support; guaranteeing up to £250bn of wholesale borrowing by banks to strengthen liquidity; providing £40bn of loans and other funding to Bradford & Bingley and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme; and insurance cover of over £280bn for bank assets.

So the cost of tackling non-communicable diseases worldwide each year in poor countries (£7.2 bn) is less than 1% of what we will spend bailing out British banks (£850 bn).

Imagine what impact we could have made had we chosen to invest our money in caring for the poor rather than in borrowing to live beyond our means.

God said of Sodom, ‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.’ (Ezekiel 16:49, 50)

I wonder what he would say of us?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Ireland victory makes North-South rugby world cup final look a near certainty

Ireland 15 Australia 6! What a turn up for the books! But the Ireland tight five out-muscled the Australians up front, starving them of ball so that their superior backline could not make any impact.

Both sides missed a number of kicks in a try-less Group C match fought at Auckland’s Eden Park but Ireland were worthy winners. And if Quade Cooper’s Spencer-esque pass to the opposition on full attack had resulted in a full-length of the field try to Tommy Bowe in the closing minutes (O’Connor cut him down at the corner flag) the margin could have been even more embarrassing.

The result means that we are heading towards a North-South knock-out quarter-final with Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina on one side of the draw and France, England, Wales and Ireland on the other.

On current form Scotland look unlikely to trouble Argentina or England, and given that England have already beaten the South Americans they are now set to top Group B. If as expected New Zealand beat France and South Africa and Wales win their remaining games against the minnows (a virtual certainty) then we are looking at NZ v ARG and RSA v AUS on one side of the draw and IRE v WAL and ENG v FRA on the other side.

Of these four you might reasonably conclude that New Zealand will beat Argentina (Argentina have never beaten the All Blacks who have home advantage) but the other three games are far too close to call.

And if Scotland are as woeful as they have looked so far (and therefore far behind the other six nations teams) and the IRE/AUS and RSA/WAL cliffhangers are an accurate indication of current form of the various sides then the gap between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres may be very small indeed.

A week ago most people would have predicted the three tri-nations teams to make the semis, but now it seems almost certain that the final will be between the best tri-nations team and the best six nations team – a North v South play off.

If there are no more major upsets then New Zealand should meet either South Africa or Australia in one semifinal but who will contest the other?

Ireland has never beaten the All Blacks, Wales hasn’t beaten them for 58 years and England has never beaten them at a world cup. France, however knocked them out in both 1999 and 2007, and Australia beat them in both the 1991 and 2003 semifinals. South Africa beat them in the 1995 final and 1999 play offs.

New Zealand is going to have to play very well if they are to repeat their 1987 home victory. Please boys don’t choke again.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Cranmer’s law and Christian conscience

Godwin's law is the observation made by Mike Godwin in 1990 that, ‘As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1 (100%).’

In the same vein, Cranmer’s law, coined this week states: ‘No matter how decent, intelligent or thoughtful the reasoning of a conservative may be, as an argument with a liberal is advanced, the probability of being accused of “bigotry”, “hatred” or “intolerance” approaches 1 (100%).’

In an astute analysis on his blog Archbishop Cranmer argues:

‘In fulfilment of the Orwellian prophecy, the prevailing political narrative has given rise to deviant definitions. “Bigotry” has ceased to mean the obstinate and blind, often nasty and hypocritical, attachment to a particular creed. “Hatred” has ceased to mean intense dislike or loathing. “Phobic” has ceased to mean morbid fear or aversion. Each of these terms is now routinely applied to those who simply possess a contrary view or articulate an opposing opinion to the ubiquitous liberal-left worldview and social orthodoxy, and especially to those whose observations are irrefutable and arguments unanswerable.’

As Cranmer implies, people use such labels as an excuse for not engaging in debates they might lose. But they also use them to intimidate and silence potential opponents or to gain support from anyone who wishes to dissociate themselves from those attracting the labels.

No one likes being called ‘homophobic’, ‘islamophobic’ or ‘bigoted’ which is why many Christians choose to remain silent rather that to express views which run counter to the prevailing secular orthodoxy.

This fear of being labelled leads some to avoid ever saying publicly, for instance, that sex outside marriage is wrong, that Jesus Christ is the only way to God or that we should not kill babies in the womb.

But it is precisely in these areas where Christian truth is most under attack that we need to be faithful to Christ’s teaching regardless of what people might choose to call us.

Jesus said, ‘If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels.’ (Mark 8:38)

He also said ‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’ (Matthew 5:11,12)

As the disciples prayed for boldness to speak unpalatable truth, so must we - even if they call us bigoted, phobic or something worse for doing so.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Germany has independent abortion counseling and an abortion rate less than half of Britain’s

It was refreshing to see Liam Fox, Defence Secretary, saying last night that he would support any measure that lowered the British abortion rate.

He and others like him would be well advised to look at the German system.

Germany has an abortion rate of 8 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 per year. By contrast Britain’s rate is more than double this at 17.

European countries with laws requiring the offer of counseling or a cooling off period before abortion have abortion rates on average that are a third lower than those, like the UK, which don’t.

In German counselling is designed specifically to protect the unborn life, so the counsellor is required to inform the woman that the unborn have a right to life, and to try and convince her to continue with the pregnancy. The counsellor cannot however force this choice on the woman.

Germany also has a three day cooling off period of reflection after a decision to have an abortion is made before it can be carried out. Furthermore the counseling must by done by someone other than the doctor (or agency) doing the abortion.

The provisions are laid out in Section 219 of the German Criminal Code in a section titled ‘Counseling of Pregnant Women in an Emergency or Conflict Situation’ as follows:

(1) The counseling serves to protect unborn life. It should be guided by efforts to encourage the woman to continue the pregnancy and to open her to the prospects of a life with the child; it should help her to make a responsible and conscientious decision. The woman must thereby be aware, that the unborn child has its own right to life with respect to her at every stage of the pregnancy and that a termination of pregnancy can therefore only be considered under the legal order in exceptional situations, when carrying the child to term would give rise to a burden for the woman which is so serious and extraordinary that it exceeds the reasonable limits of sacrifice. The counseling should, through advice and assistance, contribute to overcoming the conflict situation which exists in connection with the pregnancy and remedying an emergency situation. Further details shall be regulated by the Act on Pregnancies in Conflict Situations.

(2) The counseling must take place pursuant to the Act on Pregnancies in Conflict Situations through a recognized Pregnancy Conflict Counseling Agency. After the conclusion of the counseling on the subject, the counseling agency must issue the pregnant woman a certificate including the date of the last counseling session and the name of the pregnant woman in accordance with the Act on Pregnancies in Conflict Situations. The physician who performs the termination of pregnancy is excluded from being a counselor.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox gives support to measures aimed at lowering abortion rate as Cameron is branded 'gutless'

Defence Secretary Liam Fox has said he would support efforts to reduce the ‘far too high’ number of abortions. He is the first high profile politician this week to say so.

PA reports tonight that amid tensions within the coalition over a backbench bid to change the law on counselling for women considering a termination, Dr Fox said he would back anything that made people ‘think twice’.

Tory MP Nadine Dorries is currently rallying support for an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill which would provide women who wanted it to receive counseling that was independent of the abortion industry.

Last week it was reported in a comprehensive review published in the British Journal of Psychiatry that abortion raises the risk of mental health problems by 81%.

PA however incorrectly repeats the myth perpetrated by the Guardian newspaper and believed by Prime Minister David Cameron that Dorries’ move would stop 'abortion providers' such as Marie Stopes and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service providing counselling. This is in fact not true.

Private abortion providers gained a stranglehold on taxpayer-funded abortions under the last government. In addition every accredited pregnancy advice bureau is already linked to this industry and advised by the RCOG whose members carry out most abortions.

In 1991 the NHS funded 9,197 abortions carried out by the private sector in England and Wales. By 2010 that figure had risen to 111,775 - an increase of over 1100%. In 1991 the NHS funded 10% of abortions carried out by the private sector. By 2010 that figure had risen to 93% - a total of over £60 million of taxpayers money was paid out. The growth of NHS-funded but privately-provided abortions (BPAS/MSI etc) entirely accounted for this increase.

This sort of monopoly would not be tolerated in any other ‘service’ area but it is precisely this status quo that David Cameron under the influence of Clegg/Harris/Unions has sought to cement to the cheers of the Guardian and the criticism of the Telegraph.

Cameron said earlier this week that he would oppose Dorries’ amendment and Health minister Anne Milton has since emailed MPs saying she and her colleagues at the Department of Health would also be voting against the amendment, if it comes down to a vote.

Ms Dorries today branded Cameron as ‘gutless’ and said he had supported her amendment but had been forced into a U-turn by Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. ‘I was told by a Cabinet minister that the PM dropped it to save coalition stability,’ she told The Mail on Sunday. She added: ‘I just wish he had the guts to say outright it was Clegg who forced him to U-turn.’

Asked about Ms Dorries's amendment, Dr Fox - the Tory Defence Secretary - said: ‘I would certainly want to support any amendments that saw the number of abortions fall in the UK.

I think the level is far too high. I would certainly welcome any restrictions which enable people to think twice and get objective advice. I would actually want to see what the amendments specifically are but I'm in favour of something that sees the high level of abortions in the UK reduced.’

Fox has an excellent voting record on issues of Christian conscience whilst Cameron’s is rather wobbly.

Friday, 2 September 2011

The Guardian is now censoring comments I make on articles which mention me on its website – how liberal of them

The Guardian tonight has posted an article titled ‘Anti-abortion bid in disarray as critics rally’.

I tried to post the following comment but have learnt that my comments on the Guardian are now (for the very first time) ‘pre-moderated’. Most interesting!

I wonder if they will post it and when. I have never had a comment on the Guardian pre-moderated before and many other comments by others have been posted without moderation.

The article actually mentions me by name. Clearly they now want to censor responses. How liberal of them!

My comment

The above article creates the impression that Dorries/Field, by trying to ensure that women get an offer of counseling independent from the publicly-funded abortion industry, would be forcing them out of the ‘market’. The reality is that they already have an unassailable stranglehold on it.

In 1991 the NHS funded 9,197 abortions carried out by the private sector in England and Wales. By 2010 that figure had risen to 111,775 - an increase of over 1100%. In 1991 the NHS funded 10% of abortions carried out by the private sector. By 2010 that figure had risen to 93% - a total of over £60 million of taxpayers money was paid out. The growth of NHS-funded but privately-provided abortions (BPAS/MSI etc) entirely accounted for this increase.

In addition every accredited pregnancy advice bureau is already linked to this industry and advised by the RCOG whose members carry out most abortions.

This sort of monopoly would not be tolerated in any other ‘service’ area but it is precisely this status quo that Cameron under the influence of Clegg/Harris/Unions has sought to cement to the cheers of the Guardian and the criticism of the Telegraph.

How private abortion providers gained a stranglehold on taxpayer-funded abortions under the last government -

Abortion raises risk of mental health problems by 81% says major new review -

Amendment giving women option of independent abortion counseling is a step in the right direction -

Evan Harris outwits David Cameron in abortion about-face to appease powerful pro-abortion lobby -

Couples who cohabit before marriage 45 per cent more likely to split up. Cost of family breakdown now £41.7 billion

The Daily Mail has this week highlighted a report by the Jubilee Centre published earlier this year:

Couples who live together before they marry are ‘significantly’ more likely to end up divorced, says a report by a Christian think-tank.

The study also discovered that more couples are cohabiting than ever before - with the average time living together before tying the knot doubling to three-and-a-half years in the past four decades.

It said that couples who cohabited before marriage were 45 per cent more likely to split than those who waited until after the wedding.

The report by Dr John Hayward and Dr Guy Brandon said: 'Despite the popularity of cohabitation and its relationship to marriage, it is also the case that marriages that start with a period of prior cohabitation are significantly more prone to divorce than those that do not.

'Where there has been a previous cohabitation with a separate person by one of both partners, the likelihood of divorce soars.'

Couples who never marry are six times more likely to split by the time their first child is five, it added.

'This suggests that cohabitation is now being treated somewhat differently to the way it was in the 1960s and 70s,' said the report, Cohabitation: An Alternative to Marriage?
The data was based on 14,103 households and 22,265 adults.

The research follows on from the think-tank's 2010 publication Cohabitation in the 21st Century, which showed the cost of family breakdown is £41.7billion.This is equivalent to £1,350 for every taxpayer each year.

It claimed these costs will rise 'significantly' over the next 25 years, with its analysis based on almost 30,000 family cases drawn from a nationwide survey.

The new report, ‘Cohabitation: An Alternative to Marriage?’, which was originally published in June this year, is available free on the Jubilee Centre website.

It is described as follows:

Cohabitation serves a range of purposes and masks a wide variety of commitment levels: it cannot be considered solely as an alternative to marriage, as is its popular perception. Building on the Jubilee Centre's 2010 report into cohabitation trends, and based on even more recent data from the United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Study, this year-by-year analysis reveals a clearer picture of how trends have changed over time – and continue to change – and a better understanding of the present situation. This allows for a broader range of conclusions and a better understanding of how cohabitation itself is viewed by couples today, compared to attitudes in previous decades.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Evan Harris outwits David Cameron in abortion about face to appease powerful pro-abortion lobby

Since I blogged on the Guardian article last night the BBC, Independent, Telegraph and Press Association have reported that Prime Minister David Cameron (and Health Secretary Andrew Lansley) will be voting against the Dorries/Field amendment to give women the right to an offer of pre-abortion counselling independent of abortion providers.

This is an astounding about-face from last weekend when the Department of Health signalled its support for the Dorries/Field plan.

It appears that the following sequence of events occurred to make Cameron withdraw his support.

1. Former MP Evan Harris (pictured) put pressure on Deputy PM Nick Clegg
2. Clegg put pressure on Cameron
3. Cameron withdrew his support from Dorries/Field

Yesterday Harris tweeted ‘I raised the DoH plans with Nick Clegg directly yesterday. Today Govt climbed down’ and later added ‘The "climbdown" of Govt was more down to Clegg than Cameron’.

A Downing Street source has explained Cameron’s (current) position as follows:

‘The Prime Minister does have sympathy with Nadine (Dorries). He does believe that pregnant women should be able to get more advice and counselling, we agree on that. But where we differ is that we don't believe that Marie Stopes and BPAS should be excluded from offering that advice and counselling.’

Now that is most interesting. The Dorries/Field amendment did nothing to ‘exclude’ BPAS/MSI from counseling. That is simply the spin of the pro-abortion industry in order to maintain their near exclusive market share. We already know that BPAS/MSI operate a near monopoly on abortion provision and ‘counseling’ and receive over £60 million a year of taxpayers’ money for doing it.

There is nothing in the Dorries/Field amendment that changes this arrangement. All it requires is that there also be an offer of counseling independent of the abortion industry.

Cameron and Lansley now want to deny women that opportunity for fear of upsetting the powerful abortion industry along with its political supporters.

This news has broken on the very day that a major review has reported that women who have abortions have an 81% higher level of mental health problems than those who don’t, 55% higher than those who carry unplanned pregnancies to term and that abortion accounts for 10% of all mental health problems amongst women of child-bearing age.

The cost of the NHS of abortion-related mental health problems would be a very interesting study!

But you can bet your life that neither the RCOG nor BPAS/MSI will be telling any women about it. In fact although the story has been run by CBS, ITN, Telegraph, Daily Mail and Press Association neither the BBC nor any of the pro-abortion press (Independent/Guardian/Mirror etc) have so far even mentioned it.

What is most interesting is that 92% of MPs have already said in a recent Com Res poll that they support the option of counselling for women by independent counsellors, who have no financial interest in the outcome of the woman’s decision.

So it will be most interesting to see how MPs vote next week. How many will now fall into line behind Cameron, Clegg and Harris? We will have to wait and see.

I have highlighted before Cameron’s similar fear of another powerful lobby and his willingness to sacrifice other MPs on the altar of political expedience. There seems to be a recurring pattern here.

It now appears that he is almost as frightened of the pro-abortion lobby as Tony Blair was. Cristina Odone thinks it is because he is terrified of being seen as ‘a moralizing right-winger’. The Telegraph has expressed disappointment in a leading article. But the danger is that Cameron will appear more and more like a straw in the wind.

Evan Harris may have lost his parliamentary seat in West Oxford and Abingdon for his extreme views but it seems that he still has considerable influence over the government.

Although I concur with very few of Evan Harris’s views it has to be said that he seems to have more courage, backbone, determination and political influence in this matter than the Prime Minister.