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English bishop: Let’s be cautious responding to comatose girl’s situation

July 19, 2019 CNA Daily News 3

London, England, Jul 19, 2019 / 11:05 am (CNA).- The English and Welsh bishops’ representative on life issues urged Thursday that the public be reserved in judgement on the case of Tafida Raqeeb, a comatose five-year-old whose parents want her transferred to Italy for treatment after UK doctors ordered the removal of “life-sustaining treatment.”

Raqeeb has been in a coma since Feb. 9, after she suffered an arteriovenous malformation which resulted in a burst blood vessel in her brain.

The AVM triggered cardiac and respiratory arrest, as well as a traumatic brain injury. Doctors at the Royal London Hospital say there is no chance she will recover from her coma, and declared any further medical treatment futile.

Two doctors from the Gaslini Children’s Hospital in Genoa, Italy, however, disagree. They were able to examine Raqeeb via a video link July 12, and they agreed to care for her in Italy. They said they did not believe her to be brain dead.

Raqeeb’s parents asked the High Court in London July 16 to allow her to leave the country.

Bishop John Sherrington, an auxiliary bishop of Westminster, said July 18 that “Difficult dilemmas have to be faced. In that process, I hope that all due weight will be given to the wishes of her parents, while also respecting the clinical judgement of the doctors caring for her. Those of us not in possession of all the relevant information might best be reserved in our judgement.”

“I trust that the doctors from the Gaslini Children’s Hospital in Genoa will be given time and opportunity to come to a well-informed view and to share their prognosis with their colleagues here in London,” Sherrington wrote.

“Such international cooperation is essential good practice in the care of tragically difficult lives.”

The bishop also offer prayers for strength for Raqeeb and her parents.

“The tragic illness and circumstances of little Tafida Raqeeb will touch everyone who hears of it. I hope it will also move them to pray, as it does me.”

He said: “I pray for this little girl that she and her parents are strengthened by the presence of God, by the mercy of God and by the support of all who know and love her.”

An online petition supported by the family requesting that Royal London Hospital allow Raqeeb to be transferred to Gaslini Children’s Hospital insists that the child should remain on life support.

“Following extensive brain surgery at King’s College hospital, doctors informed her parents that she was brain dead and to consider making preparations for her funeral,” reads the petition.

“A brain stem test indicated that Tafida did not meet the qualification of ‘brain death’ as she made gasping movements and therefore could not be removed from the ventilator.”

Since then, Raqeeb has remained on a ventilator at Royal London Hospital. According to the family, a neurologist has declared her to be in a “deep coma,” from which she is beginning to emerge. Her parents say she is able to open her eyes and move her limbs, as well as being able to swallow and react to pain.

Raqeeb’s mother, Shelina Bergum, has said that doctors initially proposed giving her a tracheostomy and allowing her to return home, to continue recovery.

“The medical team have now changed their mind and want to withdraw ventilation to end her life,” Bergum wrote as part of a separate online petition organized by the family.

Tafida’s case follows similar campaigns by parents in the cases of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans, who were both terminally ill children in NHS care. In 2017, doctors sought to remove Charlie Gard from his ventilator, despite his parents’ wishes to transfer him to a hospital in New York City. He died in hospice at the age of 11 months, after life support was removed.

Less than a year later, the parents of Alfie Evans also objected to NHS attempts to remove his ventilator, saying they wished to move him to a hospital in Italy. Evans’ life support was eventually removed, and he survived for five days breathing on his own before dying just short of his second birthday.

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UK is ‘hijacking’ N Ireland on abortion, bishops say

July 18, 2019 CNA Daily News 3

Armagh, Northern Ireland, Jul 18, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- The bishops of Northern Ireland noted their alarm Wednesday at the British parliament’s passage of a bill that will legalize abortion and same-sex marriage in the region, highlighting the value of human life and the importance of devolution.

The House of Lords approved the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill July 17. It had passed the House of Commons the week prior.

“With the thousands of others who have voiced their concern in recent days, we wish to express our alarm at the unprecedented way in which the Westminster Parliament has used the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill to rush through legislation which will have a devastating impact on the right to life of unborn children,” read a July 17 statement from the four bishops whose dioceses include territory in Northern Ireland.

“The equal right to life, and love, of a mother and her unborn child is so fundamental to the common good of every society that citizens deserve the fullest participation in the democratic debate about the legislation which governs it. This also applies to decisions regarding the nature of marriage.”

They noted that “what is happening in Westminster during these days recklessly undermines this fundamental right of citizens and the principle of devolution at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement. It should be a matter of grave alarm for every citizen in Northern Ireland and all who cherish the right to life as the most fundamental of all human rights.”

The bishops urged prime minister Theresa May and her government “to move to overturn this hijacking of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill for purposes for which it was never intended and to uphold the right of citizens in Northern Ireland, under the Good Friday Agreement, to decide these matters for themselves.”

They also asked that citizen in Northern Ireland “give expression to their commitment to the care of every mother and unborn child by asking their political representatives to ensure the equal right to life is upheld in our devolved legislation.”

The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill and its amendments legalizing abortion and same-sex marriage will take effect only if the Northern Ireland Assembly, which has been suspended the past two years due to a dispute between the two major governing parties, is not functional by Oct. 21.

The bill is meant to keep the region running in the absence of a functioning devolved government.

The House of Lords approved the amendment liberalizing abortion provision in Northern Ireland by a 182-37 vote.

May’s government has said there will be an eight to twelve week consultation period to discuss how abortion provision is to be implemented.

The upper house also passed an amendment delaying the introduction of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland until January 13, 2020, allowing “the government and the Northern Ireland civil service more time to make necessary changes to legislation as well as the essential operational changes.”

Lord Tebbit said the bill had been introduced poorly and was “fatally flawed,” calling for devolution to be repealed and for Westminster to “take over in an honest manner.”

The bill returned to the Commons July 18, where an amendment was added meant to keep a new prime minister, due to be announced July 22, from suspending parliament to push through a no-deal Brexit.

Liz Parsons, advocacy director for Life Charity, told The Catholic Universe that “This Bill with its abortion amendments is a vicious slap in the face of the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives at Westminster. It represents a mad opportunistic rush by allies of the abortion lobby to exploit the current absence of the Northern Ireland Assembly to bully the people of Northern Ireland into accepting abortion.”

“We urge all parties in Northern Ireland to do the decent thing and resist this undermining of devolution by Westminster and return to the table before 21st October in order to stop these dangerous abortion amendments,” Parsons added.

Liam Gibson, a SPUC representatives in Northern Ireland, said, “it is outrageous that MPs and peers from England, Scotland and Wales cared so little for the rule of law that an overwhelming majority were prepared to disregard the right of the people of Northern Ireland to maintain legislation which has saved the lives of over 100,000 children since 1967.”

He stated: “By ramming abortion on demand down our throats Parliament has torn-up the devolution settlement and is treating Northern Ireland as a colony.”

Michael Robinson, another SPUC representative, commented that “Upon leaving office next week, Theresa May will only be remembered as the Prime Minister who undermined devolution in Northern Ireland and ushered in one of the most ruthless abortion regimes in the world. Anyone who values human life must urge the new Prime Minister to refuse to implement this inhuman and unconstitutional law.”

May said in the past that abortion should be a devolved issue for Northern Ireland.

Abortion and same-sex marriage are both legal in both the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Elective abortion is legal in the rest of the United Kingdom up to 24 weeks, while currently it is legally permitted in Northern Ireland only if the mother’s life is at risk or if there is risk of permanent, serious damage to her mental or physical health.

Bills to legalize abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, or incest failed in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016.

Northern Irish women have been able to procure free National Health Service abortions in England, Scotland, and Wales since November 2017.

The abortion amendment was introduced by Stella Creasy, a Labour MP who represents a London constituency. Earlier this year Creasy intended to propose an amendment to a draft Domestic Abuse Bill that would give the British parliament jurisdiction over abortion laws throughout the United Kingdom. However, the bill’s scope was restricted to England and Wales by the Conservative government.

Creasy also introduced an amendment to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Act 2018 to repeal Northern Irish law on abortion and gay marriage, which was defeated.

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New study suggests link between autism and gender dysphoria

July 18, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

London, England, Jul 18, 2019 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- A new study suggests a link between autism, autistic traits, and identifying as transgender or non-binary, raising new questions about the growing use of so-called “gender transition” procedures as a treatment for gender dysphoria.

The study, which was released July 14 and will appear in the September issue of the academic journal European Psychiatry, was led by Dr. Steven Stagg of Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom. The study examined 177 people who identify as transgender, non-binary, or as the gender of their biological sex. 

A person who identifies as “non-binary,” which is also referred to as “genderqueer,” identifies as neither male nor female or on the male/female binary. A person who identifies as transgender identifies as the opposite sex than their biological sex. A transgender person may opt to undergo cross-sex hormonal or surgical treatments in order to better resemble the gender with which they identify.

Of the 177 people studied, four percent of those identifying their gender with their biological sex were diagnosed with autism. For the transgender or non-binary group, that figure rose to 14%. An additional 28% of the transgender or non-binary group exhibited traits that would result in an autism diagnosis, which the authors of the study say could mean that autism is potentially being underdiagnosed, particularly among girls.

Among the autistic traits identified by Stagg were a difficulty in empathizing, as well as “an overreliance on systematic, rule-based reasoning.”

“One of the striking findings was the number of individuals born female who met the cut off for autism spectrum disorder. This is particularly important given that individuals born female are twice as likely to be referred to gender identity clinics,” said Stagg. 

In England, girls make up 74% patients at the country’s only gender clinic for minors, Tavistock. In 2019, more than half the patients referred to Tavistock were under the age of 14. Data has shown that 2.8 girls are referred to Tavistock for every boy.

“People with autism are also more likely to seek unequivocal answers to the complex issues surrounding gender identity,” said Stagg. Given that the study also suggested that autism is underdiagnosed in girls, this could be contributed to the percentage of girls seeking gender reassignment.

The number of minor girls who have been referred to Tavistock has jumped from 32 in 2008-2009 to 1,740 in 2018-2019. In July, the UK government announced an inquiry into why so many young girls were seeking to change their gender. 

“The statistics we have been made aware of show that more and more young people, particularly girls, are using health services to explore changing their gender,” said Penny Mordaunt, Minister for Women & Equalities. 

“It is vitally important that we prioritize finding out why this is the case, making sure we gain an understanding of the driving factors behind this whilst doing everything we can to support these individuals and their families,” she said. 

Stagg suggested that gender clinics screen for autism before performing any sort of treatment, and then adapt their approach as necessary. 

While the Stagg study was small, it is not the first time that a link between autism and identifying as transgendered has been identified. A 2018 report from Slate noted that researchers began in the 1990s to study the co-occurence between gender dysphoria and autism spectrum disorder.

Slate reported a “growing consensus” in the medical community that there is a disproprortionate correlation between the two.

Ryan Anderson, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and the author of “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment” told CNA that this study is further proof of how little understanding there is about the best means of treating cases of gender dysphoria.

“This is another in an ever-growing list of studies which reveal just how little we know about the underlying causes of gender dysphoria,” said Anderson. 

“It should prompt people to exercise great caution before making any life-altering medical interventions on the bodies of young people,” he added.

In June, the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education released a document warning against the “radical separation between gender and sex, with the former having priority over the later,” and the damage it was doing to society and individuals. 

“In all such [gender] theories, from the most moderate to the most radical, there is agreement that one’s gender ends up being viewed as more important than being of male or female sex,” the document stated.

 

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Parents petition UK court to move comatose daughter to Italy

July 17, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

London, England, Jul 17, 2019 / 12:52 pm (CNA).- Parents of a comatose five-year-old are attempting to move their child to Italy from a London after doctors in the United Kingdom declared any further medical treatment to be futile and ordered the removal of “life-sustaining treatment.” 

Tafida Raqeeb has been in a coma since February 9, after she suffered from a brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which resulted in a burst blood vessel in her brain. Her parents said she was “completely healthy” prior to the injury.

On July 16, her parents asked the High Court in London to allow her to leave the country. 

AVM is a rare condition that can occur anywhere in the body, and consists of tangled blood vessels and arteries. Its cause is unknown, and the malformed blood vessels are thought to have been present since birth. 

The AVM triggered cardiac and respiratory arrest, as well as a traumatic brain injury. Doctors at the Royal London Hospital say there is no chance she will recover from her coma. 

According to the Barts Health NHS Trust, which administers the Royal London Hospital, doctors have determined that “further invasive medical treatment is futile.” Two doctors from the Gaslini Children’s Hospital in Genoa, Italy, however, disagree. They were able to examine Tafida via a video link on Friday, and they agreed to care for her in Italy. They said they did not believe her to be brain dead.

“Brain death” is usually defined as the irreversible loss of all functions of the brain, including the brainstem, and is marked by a coma, lack of reflexes, and the inability to breathe without mechanical assistance. Once a person has been declared brain dead, they have no chance of recovery and are clinically considered deceased. 

An online petition supported by the family requesting that Royal London Hospital allow Tafida to be transferred to Gaslini Children’s Hospital, insists that the child does not meet the clinical conditions of brain death and should remain on life support. 

“Following extensive brain surgery at King’s College hospital, doctors informed her parents that she was brain dead and to consider making preparations for her funeral,” reads the petition.

“A brain stem test indicated that Tafida did not meet the qualification of ‘brain death’ as she made gasping movements and therefore could not be removed from the ventilator.” 

Since then, Tafida has remained on a ventilator at Royal London Hospital. According to the family, a neurologist has declared her to be in a “deep coma,” from which she is beginning to emerge. Her parents say she is able to open her eyes and move her limbs, as well as being able to swallow and react to pain. 

Tafida’s mother, Shelina Bergum, has said that doctors initially proposed giving Tafida a tracheostomy and allowing her to return home, to continue recovery. 

“The medical team have now changed their mind and want to withdraw ventilation to end her life,” Bergum wrote as part of a separate online petition organized by the family. 

Tafida’s case follows similar campaigns by parents in the cases of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans, who were both terminally ill children in NHS care. In 2017, doctors sought to remove Charlie Gard from his ventilator, despite his parents’ wishes to transfer him to a hospital in New York City. He ultimately passed away in hospice at the age of 11 months, after life support was removed. 

Less than a year later, the parents of Alfie Evans also objected to NHS attempts to remove his ventilator, saying they wished to move him to a hospital in Italy. Alfie’s life support was eventually removed, and he survived for five days breathing on his own before passing away shortly before his second birthday.

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French lawmakers pass bill on Notre-Dame; new report says cathedral nearly collapsed during fire

July 17, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Paris, France, Jul 17, 2019 / 12:45 pm (CNA).- France’s Parliament on Tuesday passed a bill on the rebuilding of Notre-Dame Cathedral— three months after a fire destroyed the church’s roof— even amid disagreement on the best way to proceed with the restoration.

The April 15 fire destroyed the wooden roof of the cathedral as well as a spire that was added to the 800-year-old church during a 19th century renovation.

The bill establishes a legal framework for the distribution of funds donated for the cathedral’s renovation.

The French Senate first approved the bill May 27, which at the time mandated that the rebuilding be faithful to Notre-Dame’s “last known visual state.”

Yesterday’s bill passed the National Assembly by a 99-8-33 vote. The architectural form of the reconstruction is not directly addressed in the text of the new law, AFP reports.

The government of President Emmanuel Macron had previously initiated an architectural competition to submit a variety of suggestions for the restoration; Macron has also called for “an inventive reconstruction” of the cathedral with a more contemporary design. 

Macron has said that he intends the restoration to take five years. Critics in parliament reportedly complained that the project was being rushed in order to have the construction finished in time for Paris’ 2024 hosting of the Olympic Games.

“The hardest thing is now ahead of us. We need to strengthen the cathedral for ever and then restore it,” Culture Minister Franck Riester said as the bill was passed, as reported by AFP.

The bill also aims to organize the nearly $1 billion in donations that poured in from throughout the world to rebuild the cathedral. French luxury goods rivals, the billionaires Bernard Arnault and Francois-Henri Pinault, pledged 200 and 100 million euros apiece, AFP says.

Officials had been in the process of a massive fundraising effort to renovate the cathedral against centuries of decay, pollution, and an inundation of visitors. French conservationists and the archdiocese announced in 2017 that the renovations needed for the building’s structural integrity could cost as much as $112 million to complete.

A recent New York Times analysis has also suggested that the cathedral came very close to completely collapsing, and that the brave actions of Paris’ fire department likely saved the building from further damage. The arched stone vault is still at particular risk of collapse, and tourists are not yet allowed inside.

The Times report also detailed a miscommunication between a security guard an employee monitoring the building’s fire alarm which meant the fire was not discovered until it had already been burning for 30 minutes.

The area around Notre-Dame still contains higher than normal amounts of lead, due to the collapse of the lead and oak spire, a source of concern for Paris authorities. Workers are currently working to clear debris from the site and have not started renovations.

Due to France’s laws regarding secularization, the French government owns all churches built before 1905, including Notre-Dame. The government lets the Archdiocese of Paris use the building for free, and will continue to do so in perpetuity. The Archdiocese of Paris is responsible for the upkeep of the church, as well as for paying employees.

During Mass on June 15 in a side chapel, the cathedral’s first since the fire, Archbishop Michel Aupetit emphasized that the church is no mere cultural heritage of France, but is meant for the worship of God.

About 30 people assisted in the Mass, including canons of the cathedral and other priests, wearing hard hats for safety. The Mass was said Notre-Dame des Sept Douleurs, a side chapel that housed the crown of thorns, a relic which a fireman rescued from the blaze along with the Blessed Sacrament.

 

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Abortion provision limited in some Irish hospitals by conscientious objection

July 17, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Dublin, Ireland, Jul 17, 2019 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- Documents from the Republic of Ireland’s health department show that abortion services are limited at nine of the country’s 19 maternity hospitals, in part due to conscientious objectors.

In a May 2018 referendum, Irish voters repealed a constitutional amendment recognizing the right to life of unborn children and equal to mothers’ right to life. Legislators then enacted legislation allowing legal abortion.

Ireland now permit medical abortions to be performed by general practitioners through nine weeks of pregnancy. Hospitals are allowed to perform surgical abortions through 12 weeks. After 12 weeks, abortions may be performed in “exceptional circumstances.”

The law permits medical professionals who conscientiously object to abortion to refrain from participation in the procedure; however, doctors who object to abortion must refer women to doctors who will perform them.

A statement from the Department of Health, obtained by TheJournal.ie, says that “the HSE [Health Service Executive] has advised that where conscientious objection has arisen in relation to the provision of termination of pregnancy services, hospital groups are working with the hospitals in question to find an appropriate solution.”

Of the nine maternity hospitals that do not offer full abortion services, five are due to to “operational issues”, and four are related to conscientious objection and recruitment, according to an April update sent to the national health department.

Some of the hospitals are small, and have argued that abortion provision there would be unnecessarily expensive.

South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel, about 30 miles south of Thurles, has “the smallest number of births in the country (900 a year) and maternity services represent a small part of its activities; to establish a service in the hospital will require dedicated clinics, which may have little or no demand”, according to one of the documents.

The HSE added that abortion provision at South Tipperary “would not represent optimal use of scarce resources given the proximity of STGH to other hospitals providing the service.”

The health department has said it is “extremely disappointed that, at this stage, there are still only 10 hospitals providing full ToP (termination of pregnancy) services”.

“From the outset the Minister and the Department have been very clear that government policy is to normalise ToP service provision within our maternity hospitals and that services will be provided from all 19 maternity hospitals,” the Department of Health stated.

“In that context, it is not acceptable that the NWIHP [National Women & Infants Health Programme] should seek to defer introduction of the service on the basis of low demand or because of sufficient regional coverage or, indeed, because of preference to provide services on a networked basis.”

Dr. Trevor Hayes, a consultant obstetrician/gynecologist at St. Luke’s General Hospital in Kilkenny, maintained at a July 6 pro-life rally in Dublin that health minister Simon Harris is “obsessing with abortion” and is “trying to bully good men and women to get involved in their abortion against their conscience.”

Continued pressure to back abortion would force doctors, nurses and other medical professionals out of medicine and add to “the staffing crisis already crippling the health service,” Hayes predicted.

Hayes is one of several consultant colleagues at St. Luke’s who have told management they would not perform abortions. He told that rally that abortion is “a procedure that helps no one and takes the life of the child … Abortion is not life-saving, it’s life-ending. It’s not health care, and no amount of spin can make it health care.”

The health department’s documents show that “it is unlikely” that abortion service will begin at St. Luke’s General Hospital in 2019.

In May, the Irish bishops’ conference objected to job requirements mandating that certain consultant doctors be willing to participate in abortions, saying the country’s abortion law had promised to safeguard conscience rights for medical professionals.

An advertisement for two consultants, for obstetrics/gynecology and anesthesia, at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin says applicants must be willing to participate in abortions.

“This precondition runs totally counter to a doctor’s constitutional and human right to freedom of conscience,” said the bishops.

The bishops’ conference said such preconditions may rule out the best possible person for the job by eliminating candidates solely because they are unwilling to perform abortions.

“A doctor who is eminently qualified to work as a consultant in these fields is denied employment in these roles because of his/her conscience,” said the bishops.

“Doctors who are pro-life and who may have spent over a decade training in these areas and who may otherwise be the best candidate for these positions are now advised that, should they apply, they would not be eligible for consideration,” they said.

A spokesman for the National Maternity Hospital argued that the specific posts were funded by the HSE for the purpose of abortions.

“They are therefore for individuals willing to contribute to the provision of these services. Other past and future posts are not affected. The conscientious objection guidelines for staff in both hospitals remain unchanged,” the spokesman said, according to RTE.

At least 640 general practitioners in Ireland signed a petition in November objecting to the new obligation of referring patients to other doctors for abortions.

The majority of the country’s 2,500 GPs are unwilling to perform abortions. Only between 4 and 6 percent of GPs have said they would participate in the procedure.

At the July 6 All Ireland Rally for Life, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, said: “I march today because I believe it remains as important as ever to affirm the sanctity of all human life. The direct and intentional taking of the life of any innocent human being is always gravely wrong – we must avoid becoming desensitized to the value of every human life.”

He called for more help for vulnerable women, for mothers and fathers who are in crisis, and for “parents who feel that they have made the wrong choice in having an abortion.”

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