TWO London hospitals were picketed last week by campaigners against a medical trial, which they claim is increasing the incidence of spina bifida in children and is "unethical".
Members of the Handicapped Division of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children demonstrated outside University College Hospital, and St Bartholomew's Hospital and handed out leaflets to passers by. The trials are being sponsored by the Medical Research Council and will eventually involve 2,000 women considered to have a "high risk" of producing children with the progressively disabling disease, spina bifida. It has for some time been recognised that supplementing a mother's diet with either multivitamins or folic acid can dramatically reduce the incidence of the disease.
SPUC argue that the case has been proven and that all "high risk" women should be given the supplements. The Medical Research Council claimed this week that the effectiveness of both has yet to be properly evaluated.
This is why they are conducting the controlled tests which mean that one group will receive neither and, say SPUC, and, admit the MRC, the risk of this group of mothers producing babies with spina bifida is increased.
SPUC aruges that these trials are a violation of the rights of the unborn child, who, they urge, is entitled to as much protection as the state of medical knowledge can provide.