Europe Freezes Grants for Research with Human Embryos

Italian Pro-Life Movement Applauds Decision

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ROME, OCT. 2, 2002 ( The Italian Pro-Life Movement praised the government’s opposition to the use of European Union funds for experimentation on human embryos.

In a statement, the Pro-Life Movement explains that this opposition has resulted in “the postponement until Jan. 1, 2004, of the funding provided by the European Community.”

On Sept. 30, the EU’s Council of Ministers approved an aid program for research, which includes grants amounting to 17.5 million euro for 2002-2006, but excludes research with stem cells until the end of 2003, given the lack of consensus on the scientific use of human embryos.

Denmark, currently in the EU presidency, finally proposed a moratorium to resolve the impasse that divided the 15 member states.

The United Kingdom and Sweden headed the list of those favorable to the use of embryonic stem cells. They were opposed by Germany, Austria, Italy, Ireland and Portugal, which called for clearer ethical norms before beginning to allocate European public money for these experiments.

The decision allows for the funding of national research with embryos’ stem cells that are already isolated and kept in cell banks. These authorized projects will have to be studied by a regulatory committee. The United Kingdom and Sweden are the only members that allow this line of research.

Germany and France have imported stem cells from third countries, to continue with this type of research.

Philippe Busquin, European research commissioner, announced that the 15 member countries will take up the issue again next spring. The European Commission will have to elaborate a report and convoke a seminar (projected for September 2003), in which members of the European Parliament and of the Council of Ministers will also participate.

Carlo Casini, president of the Pro-Life Movement, who signed the statement, commented: “The fact that the funding remained subordinated to the holding of a seminar of European institutions on bioethics is positive.”

He added, though, that “it is worrying that the European Commission, anticipating the results of the seminar, announced a proposal that sets the guidelines for community funding” of projects that use human embryo stem cells.

In this connection, the Pro-Life Movement contended: “If Europe would like to be consistent with its history and rational soul, the first ethical duty should be to ask oneself if, at the beginning of his existence, man can be considered as something that can be destroyed.”

“The answer to this question is the indispensable assumption needed to make decisions on experimentation with embryos. In fact, if the embryo is a person and not a thing, then he/she cannot be treated as a means to attain other ends, even if they are noble,” the statement emphasizes.

Casini concluded that “it is to be hoped that the heralded seminar on bioethics will address this question above all.”

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