Health minister asks hospital to wait

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Objections by the Christian parties have forced the deputy health minister to ask the Maastricht hospital to withhold increasing embryo tests.

4 June 2008

THE NETHERLANDS - Dutch Deputy Health Minister Jet Bussemaker has asked Maastricht Academic Hospital not to increase the number of hereditary diseases that test-tube embryos can be tested for before the issue is decided by the government.

Bussemaker admits that the hospital does not need special permission to conduct the screening because it is permitted by law.

However, now that the two Christian parties in the coalition cabinet have voiced objections, she would prefer the hospital to wait until a political decision is forthcoming. Parliament is expected to hold an emergency debate on gene screening on Wednesday.

Today’s ADs front page reports that the doctors and patients are furious at politicians, especially the Christian Union for forcing the deputy health minister to withdraw permission to test for the BRCA gene.

AD quotes a CU spokesperson as saying, "it is a question of principles".

The paper also quotes the editor of the Dutch Medical Association's journal as saying, "my Bible still says that sparing people unnecessary suffering is a beneficent act".

NRC Handelsblad poses the question, 'is it better to prevent cancer or does every embryo have the right to life?' and publishes an article by a professor of gynaecology.

According to the professor, the BRCA gene doesn't cause breast cancer in 100 percent of its carriers but it does have a disastrous emotional and psychological effect on 100 percent of the carriers and their families.

The professor continues, "the position adopted by Christian politicians is a kick in the teeth for people suffering from hereditary diseases".

Last week the deputy health minister, who is a member of the Labour Party, wrote in a letter that the hospital had permission for the gene research. She was later forced to withdraw under pressure from the Christian Union.

[Radio Netherlands / Jacqueline Carver / Expatica]

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