"Designer Baby" Decision Flawed, Say Prelates

British Agency’s Move Comes Under Criticism

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LONDON, JULY 22, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The decision by Britain’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority to allow for the creation of embryonic children to provide therapeutic tissue for an older sibling is “deeply flawed,” warns a Catholic bishop.

“Everyone will sympathize with the plight of parents searching for a tissue donor for a gravely ill child,” Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff said in a statement today over the “designer baby” decision.

“But to allow an embryo to be selected for this purpose — and others discarded — is wrong, because it abandons the foundational moral principle that human lives should never be used as a mere means to an end,” said the archbishop, who chairs the Department of Christian Responsibility and Citizenship, of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales.

He added: “Once we allow a human life to be deliberately produced, and then selected or destroyed, simply to benefit another, we are have lost our ethical bearings.”

The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority decided Wednesday to relax the grounds on which embryos can be created, screened, and then destroyed in order to find a genetic match that may be used to help a sick sibling.

Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow, Scotland, and a member of the Catholic Bishops’ Joint Bioethics Committee, also assailed the development.

“One can understand the motives of those parents who request such a procedure,” he said, “but we cannot lose sight of the fact that embryos are human beings, whether implanted in the womb and carried to term, or reproduced and then destroyed in the laboratory.”

“For every embryo implanted using the technique proposed, many will be destroyed,” the Glasgow prelate said.

“We do not, as a society, have the right to initiate human life either to destroy it, or for purposes, however nobly intended, which render that life a means to someone else’s ends,” Archbishop Conti added. “Human life is not a commodity; a baby is not a product; an embryo is not a cluster of exploitable cells.”

Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, similarly expressed dismay over the decision.

“It cannot be right to create a child with the primary purpose of benefiting an elder brother,” Tully said. “The designer baby may be allowed his or her right to live, but that same right will be denied to his embryonic brothers and sisters.”

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