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From the Countries

U.S. Computer System Calculates Death Risk

Researchers say they have developed a system that can help physicians and families of severely ill patients calculate the patient’s chance of dying. The APACHE III system enables doctors to compare one patient’s condition against the experience of thousands of others and calculate the odds of the patient leaving the hospital alive. “‘The majority of doctors tell you that statistics don’t apply to individual patients,” said William Knaus, director of the ICU Research unit at George Washington University Medical Center. “That’s what we’re directly challenging here.” Such a system, “if accepted, could have a broad impact on decisions regarding treatment of the desperately ill, particularly the use of expensive procedures that often do little more than eke out an extra week or month of life” (Wall Street Journal, 11 Nov. 1991).

U.K. — Artificial Insemination

A scheme offering virgins a chance to have babies is to be abandoned by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). The service attracted stinging criticism from politicians and church leaders earlier in the year because women who did riot have a partner and had never had sex the chance to give birth by artificial insemination. “Our main function is to provide an abortion and advice service and so we have decided to concentrate on that,” said BPAS operational manager, Caroline Phillips (The Press Association, United Kingdom, 8 June 1991).

Australian Doctors To Be Protected

A new policy which, if enacted into law, would protect any A.C.T. doctor who killed patients wishing to die or assisted them in the act of suicide was widely condemned. The 7 point policy, adopted at the June conference of the A.C.T. branch of the Australian Labor Party, includes the following:

  • if a patient who has been counseled consistently requests assistance to die and two doctors are of the view that there is little or no prospect of substantial improvement of the patient’s condition, then it should not be an offence for a doctor to assist the patient to die;
  • if the patient is competent and physically capable, death should come as far as practicable from his/her own action, with the doctor providing information about how death might be brought about as well as the means;
  • consideration should be given whether protection should be provided for doctors; they should not be deterred by fear of litigation from assisting when proper safeguards have been met (A.C.T. R.T.L. Newsletter, Publication No. NBH 2987, Winter1991).

Nairobi Alert

The first “Inter-African Conference on Adolescent Health” will be held on 28-31 January 1992, in Nairobi, Kenya. The organizers of the conference are the Center of the Study of Adolescence (Nairobi, Kenya) and the Center for Population Options (CPO, Wash., D.C., U.S.A.).

CPO was spawned by the Population Institute (Pl) in 1980 to carry out Pl’s adolescent sexuality programs within the United States. The Population Institute is a Washington, D.C.-based organization which is funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Judith Senderowitz, executive director of the CPO is the connecting link between the two organizations. Ms. Senderowitz is also vice chairman of the board of directors of International Projects Assistance Services (IPAS). IPAS, which manufactures and distributes manual vacuum aspirators from its home base in North Carolina, is dedicated to introducing abortion services throughout the world (see PRI Review, Jan./Feb. 1991).

CPO is the school-based clinic entrepreneur in the U.S. They provide the training for the nation’s educational bureaucracy in the distribution of contraceptives at school sites.

The group spearheaded efforts to promote the legalization of abortion. CPO filed “friend of the court” briefs to “defend minors’ right to safe, legal and confidential abortion and demonstrate that requiring parental notification or consent for a notification or consent for a minor’s abortion will unfairly deny her access to competent reproductive health care” (Options, Vol. IV, No.1, Spring 1990, CPO, p.1).

CPO maintains a media advisory committee which Ms. Senderowitz boasts is responsible for the alteration of American values. Among the programs for which CPO claims credit are Maude’s abortion, All in the Family’s promotion of vasectomy and James at Fifteen’s presentation of a fifteen year old boy’s loss of virginity.

East Germany Tested Abortion Pill for Hard Currency

Former Communist East Germany tested the abortion pill RU486 on 200 women for a payment of at least one million marks (US$625,000) according to a German magazine.

Bild der Frau, a woman’s weekly, reported that pregnant women took RU486 in clinics in Jena and Greifswald from late 1988-89 “on the orders of the East German health ministry.”

A spokeswoman for Hoechst, Helga Hennemann is reportedly told Reuter’s News Service that 100 women were tested in East Germany. She claimed however that reports of a multi-million-mark sum was “sheer speculation” although a hard currency payment was made (Berlin, 8 December, Reuter ).

“Be Kinder To Your Kinder”

The German Parliament has proposed tough new legislation “barring parents from ‘nagging, spanking, boxing ears or withholding affection’.” Under the legislation, children may sue their parents for abuse. A Newsweek article account states, “Germans’ chilly attitude toward children is such an established fact of life that there’s even a word for it: kinderunfreundlich or ‘child-unfriendly’.”

Der Spiegel, a German newsweekly is said to have reported that as many as 400,000 children are severely abused each year. The German Federation for the Protection of Children, however, estimates the “figure closer to one million.”

The new legislation was proposed by Parliament “to bring German social practices into line with the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child” which was ratified by Germany last year.

Due to the declining birthrate, the Bonn government encourages Germans to have children by offering “fertility stipends” of $500 a month for the first eighteen months of a child’s life (Newswee k, 16 December, 1991).

Australian Women Subjected To Experimental Drugs

Thirty women (24 of European ancestry and six of Maori or Pacific Island origin), who had used Depo-Provera for contraception were tested for bone density. At the time of the study, all were receiving injections every twelve weeks of 150 mg Depo-Provera, and had been using the drug for a minimum period of 5 years. They were recruited through advertising in family planning clinics. None had any history of metabolic bone disease or were taking other drugs known to affect bone and mineral metabolism.

Depo-Provera users had significantly reduced bone density in the lumbar spine and in the femoral neck (“Bone Density in Women Receiving Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate for Contraception” Department of Medicine, Auckland Hospital, New Zealand; Family Planning Association of New Zealand).

Regulations on Embryo Research in Victoria

A report by an advisory committee to the Victorian Parliament recommended that a fourteen day limit be set on embryo research, Other recommendations included:

  • donors would be identified for people born of donated gametes once they had reached 18 years of age
  • a five year limit would be set on storage of frozen embryos unless special approval were given
  • de facto couples would be allowed to participate in infertility programs
  • licensing for doctors and institutions to regulate in—vitro fertilization and donor insemination was recommended
  • compulsory counseling for all program participants including donors

(The Age, 9 November 1991).

U.S. AIDS Tab Estimated at $5.8 Billion

America’s medical bill for HIV infection will reach $5.8 billion this year and an almost double increase to $10.4 billion in 1994. The federal study is the first to consider both people infected with AIDS and those infected with the immunodeficiency virus which causes AIDS.

Mr. Fred Hellinger, director of the division of cost and financing at the federal Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, author of the study, calculates an annual cost of $4.4 billion in 1992. The estimate is based on an annual treatment cost of $32,000 per patient.

The estimate assumes averages of 1.6 hospital stays per year at fifteen days per stay. It also assumes that outpatient costs comprise 25 per cent of the total calculated cost of care for an AIDS patient.

Treatment of HIV infection without AIDS this year was estimated at $1.4 billion. An estimated 1 million Americans are infected.

Niger Family Health and Demography Project

The government of Niger launched the Niger Family Health and Demography Project in 1988, with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (A.I.D.). As the cornerstone of the five-year project, the family health component will “work toward a more comprehensive, responsive family health care system in Niger.” The system will:

  • “improve and expand family planning services;
  • build commitment to family planning among key decision makers and the public.”

The project plans to “reach out to the people of Niger with information about the importance of family planning for a healthy family. Public information campaigns, educational and counseling activities will seek to create a committed constituency for family planning. The project will work with men and women of reproductive age as well as with religious leaders, health professionals, teachers and government officials to build a broad base of support.”

The project intends to improve family health services by developing a “partnership among the nation’s families, its communities, its health care providers and its government services and ministries” (Family Planning Directorate, Ministry of Social Affairs and Advancement of Women, Niamey, Niger).

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