Michelle Hutchinson

Who should be allowed to foster?

A Christian couple have been blocked in their attempt to foster children this week. Eunice and Owen Johns had applied to Court to prevent Derby city council from continuously stalling their application to foster children. The council was doing so because the couple are Pentecostal Christians who hold “strong views on homosexuality, stating that it is ‘against God’s laws and morals’”. The court refused to rule on the matter, effectively allowing the council to prevent the Johns from fostering. Should conservative Christians be allowed to foster children?

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Civil Partnership, Religion and the BNP

The government is making plans to lift the ban on gay partnership ceremonies in religious buildings. Among the first to apply to perform such ceremonies are expected to be Quakers, and Liberal Jews. However, it is apparently “not clear whether the proposals will suggest that civil ceremonies in religious surroundings could incorporate elements such as hymns or Bible readings”. What justification could there be for preventing the incorporation of such elements?

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Stop that painting!

A painting thought to be by Peter Paul Rubens has been barred from export this week. The ban on selling it to a foreign buyer lasts until March, with the possibility of an extension, and is intended to give British museums a chance to raise the money to buy it. The committee which advises the government on which pieces of art should be barred from export must find a piece to be of high quality and to have a significant British connection, if it is to be barred. The British connection which allows this painting to qualify is that it has a wax seal on the back showing that it was in a British collection in the 1840s (it also has one showing it was in Venice in the early 1800s). Given that connection, how could Britain justify preventing the export of this painting? Continue reading

Trading Organs for Freedom

In Mississippi, sisters Jamie and Gladys Scott are to be let out of prison on the condition that Gladys donates a kidney to Jamie. (See also an article in the Guardian) They are both serving life sentences for being accessories to armed robbery, and would otherwise not be eligible for parole until 2014. Jamie Scott is severely ill with diabetes and high blood pressure, and requires frequent dialysis. She has been given parole on medical grounds, while Gladys has been granted parole on the condition that she give one of her kidneys to Jamie within a year. Receiving payment in exchange for organs is illegal in the US. But is there a relevant moral difference between trading one of your kidneys for money, and trading it for your freedom?

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Focussing on diseases

Further to Julian’s article about Giving What We Can, an important part of helping people as much as possible is to find out which charities do the most good for a certain amount of money. This has been in the news recently with this article. It claims that we are missing out on doing a lot of good by focussing exclusively on certain high-profile diseases, while other diseases impose a greater burden and are much cheaper to treat. This raises the question of why some diseases get much more attention and support than others.

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Could a ban on homebirth be justified?

Agnes Gereb, a midwife in Hungary, has been imprisoned for performing home births http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/22/hungary-midwife-agnes-gereb-home-birth. She faces various charges, including negligent malpractice and manslaughter (relating to a homebirth in which the baby died after a difficult labour). While home birth is theoretically legal in Hungary, in practice independent Hungarian midwives are not certified as being able to ensure safe conditions for home birth.

Media commentary in this country has on the whole been very sympathetic towards Gereb (for example http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00vhfg2), implying that the rules which prevent women from giving birth at home are unwarranted restrictions on their freedom. Although in most developed countries home births are the exception rather than the rule, they are generally felt to be something women have a right to choose to have. A plausible reason for this is that birth is seen as a very important, as well as personal, experience which the mother should have control over. Is Hungary justified in challenging the existence of such a right?

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