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Thalidomide group urges inquiry into `killings'

Victims of the thalidomide scandal yesterday urged the Government to set up a public inquiry into the case of a doctor who admitted ending the lives of two handicapped babies.

The Thalidomide Action Group (TAG) is angry over the disclosure by Dr Richard Nicholson, editor of the Bulletin of Medical Ethics, that he took part in "mercy killings" as a junior doctor 20 years ago.

Freddie Astbury, 35, chairman of TAG, who was born without arms and legs, said: "We want Virginia Bottomley to set up an inquiry into this. I am just glad Dr Nicholson wasn't around at my birth."

Thalidomide victims, who in many cases lead independent lives despite their handicaps, which were caused by a sedative drug taken during pregnancy, are furious over Dr Nicholson's admission in the 3D current affairs show to be screened on ITV today.

Nuala Scarisbrick of the pressure group Life said that doctors should send handicapped babies to the charity's new baby hospice in Liverpool rather than kill them.

She said on GMTV yesterday: "Babies with a short life expectancy need love and care and food and good nursing . . . and their parents need intensive counselling and care to help them cope with the grief and trauma.

"I don't think it is helpful to talk about killing babies with a short life expectancy, they deserve the same love and respect as we all do."

Stuart Horner, chairman of the British Medical Association ethics committee, yesterday said he did not believe the law should be changed to allow active euthanasia.

He told BBC Radio 4: "It seems to me that if we were to introduce active killing of those patients then we are expressing a view about the quality of that person's life and I don't think we are entitled to express that."