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PM warns against assisted suicide; calls for more exercise at school and the true cost of alcohol in Scotland

By Richard Staines

Our roundup of news headlines on Wednesday 24 February.

Scotland has the second-highest rate of chronic liver disease in Europe, according to The Times. NHS statistics show that in 2008, 9,072 people with the condition were treated in hospital and the disease caused 1,059 deaths.

Only Hungary has higher rates than Scotland and rates have been falling in many other EU countries. Drink-related discharges from hospital are also on the increase, with then greatest rise among young adults in their 20s and 30s, where the increase was nearly 23%.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s healthy secretary, said: ‘Cheap alcohol is making a serious situation worse. By linking price to product strength, minimum pricing will put an end to the sale of high-strength alcohol for less than the cost of bottled water.’

Gordon Brown has warned against legalising assisted suicide, expressing concerns that vulnerable people may feel under pressure to end their lives. The PM made his comments as director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, prepares to publish guidance on the matter tomorrow.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Brown said: ‘The risk of pressures – however subtle – on the frail and the vulnerable, who may for example feel their existence is burdensome to others, cannot ever be entirely excluded.’

But ‘right to die’ campaigner Debbie Purdy criticised the Prime Minister’s stance. She said: ‘To have a Prime Minister who says actually I don’t care if 95% of the population think we should find a law and discuss whether it’s possible or not… I think it shows a lack of respect for the British people.’

Giving children more exercise time at school and physical education homework makes them fitter and reduces body weight, according to a study published in the BMJ online. The research from Switzerland contradicts previous studies that suggested children compensate for the extra sport be being more sedentary for the rest of the time.

It compared the health of children given extra exercise with those on the standard three lessons a week programme over a one-year period. Children aged seven to 11 who did extra exercise could run the equivalent of 20 seconds faster and body fat as measured by skinfold thickness was 2mm less and their body mass index improved.

Spotted a story we’ve missed? Let us know and we’ll update the digest throughout the day…

Daily Digest – Wednesday 24 February