Canadian Bishops Lament a Double Standard on Life

Parliamentary Report Advocates Limited Testing on Human Embryos

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OTTAWA, DEC. 14, 2001 ( Even as research on animals increasingly is frowned on, Canada may allow testing on human beings, if some legislators have their way.

That paradox was pointed out this week by the nation´s bishops. They called attention to a parliamentary commission´s recommendation for human embryo research at a time when commercial advertising boasts that certain products are free of the stigma of having been tested on animals.

The recommendation comes in a report by the House of Commons´ standing committee on health, issued on the draft Assisted Human Reproduction Act.

A note published Wednesday by the bishops´ conference underlines the contradiction in the report at «a time when more and more bath and beauty products bear witness to an increased sensitivity by advertising ´no animal testing.´»

Yet, «our society is at risk of having legislation which will for the first time permit research that will result in the death of a human being,» the bishops´ conference states. «This is incongruous and deeply troubling.»

The conference, however, welcomes the report´s recommendations «to maintain among the prohibitions those on cloning, including so-called therapeutic cloning; germ-line alteration; the marketing of gametes and embryos; and the strengthening of the provisions against commercial surrogacy.»

The conference states that it «is particularly pleased with the recommendation that the proposed legislation continue to ban the creation of embryos for research purposes because human embryos are human beings, who deserve to be respected and treated as human subjects, not as research objects.»

But the conference «is deeply disappointed that the Committee has decided to allow research on embryos who remain after fertility treatments.»

The statement continues: «While we would like to support embryonic stem cell research, which has the potential to do good, we cannot because the research kills the embryo. No amount of healing or good can justify the deliberate killing of a human being or using a human being as a means to an end.»

It adds: «The Committee´s decision is all the more puzzling because it heard evidence that adult stem cell research, which does not involve harming another human life, is showing remarkable promise.»

«The Committee´s attempt to limit research on embryos who remain after fertility treatments to those situations where there is no other way to accomplish the research recognizes that this is a profound moral issue with serious implications.

«Its recommendation that regulated standards be developed in relation to the maximum number of eggs that may be harvested and fertilized and the maximum number of embryos that may be produced is also indicative of the respect that is due to the embryo and very welcome.»

«However, having abandoned the basic principle that human life cannot be destroyed for the potential benefit of others, it will be very difficult to maintain the limits that have been set on embryo research,» the statement adds.

«Experience with other serious moral questions leads us to believe that once the door is opened it will be very difficult to shut,» the bishops contend. «Researchers well know from the physics of the law of inertia that once processes are put in motion, it is very difficult to stop or change direction.»

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