Church in Spain Proposes Unfreezing of "Spare" Embryos

Note of the Executive Committee of the Spanish Episcopal Conference

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

MADRID, JULY 29, 2003 ( The Spanish Episcopal Conference’s executive committee proposes «unfreezing» spare human embryos in artificial fertility clinics over using them for research material.

The note was published in response to the reform of the present law in force — On Techniques of Assisted Reproduction — communicated by the Council of Ministers on July 25. According to health minister Ana Pastor, this law allows experimentation with «crioconserved» embryos over five years old, with the consent of the parents.

According to official figures, there are some 35,000 «spare» embryos in assisted fertilization clinics in Spain, although other sources say the figure is more than 200,000.

The note is forceful in stating that «possible research carried out on human embryos, which causes harm or death» would be morally illicit.

Point 6 of the note, published on the Web page, also clarifies that «to keep frozen human embryos is an abusive situation against those lives, which can be compared to therapeutic cruelty.»

Therefore, the episcopal committee proposes the unfreezing of the embryos to put «an end to such an abuse» and allow «nature to take its course, namely, to produce death.»

«To allow to die in peace is not the same as to kill,» the note states, referring to the scientific research that implies the conscious suppression of the embryos.

«The suspension of the freezing should not be done in such a way that it becomes the direct cause of the embryos’ death, nor can it be accompanied by any other action that causes death,» the document explains.

In any case, this is considered the «lesser evil,» as «the good thing would have been never to allow the accumulation of frozen embryos; then the decision would not have to be made now about their unfreezing and their end.»

Embryos, «unfrozen in the circumstances mentioned, could be considered «donors.» According to the note, the cells of these embryos «could be used for research in the framework of strict control, similar to that established for the use of organs or tissues from deceased persons who donated them for this purpose.»

The Spanish Episcopal Conference insists that the human embryo «merits the respect accorded to the human person.»

«It is not a thing or a mere aggregate of living cells, but the first stage of the existence of a human being,» it emphasizes. Therefore, «it is not licit to deprive embryos of life or do anything with them that is not in their own benefit.»

The note of the Episcopate’s executive committee describes the name pre-embryo as «linguistic fiction,» an attempt to «suggest that in the 14 days following fertilization only a pre-human reality exists that does not merit the respect due to human beings.»

The note does not propose that those embryos be given for adoption, as Spanish associations suggested to the government, an argument which at present is the focus of debate of bioethics experts even within the Catholic Church.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation