Physicians Group Assails Cloning Decision in United Kingdom

Ethically Unacceptable, Says International Federation

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ROME, AUG. 18, 2004 ( Lamenting the United Kingdom’s decision to authorize the cloning of human embryos for research purposes, Catholic doctors insisted it is «ethically unacceptable to deliberately sacrifice the life of any human being.»

On Aug. 12, the International Federation of Associations of Catholic Doctors (FIAMC) published a statement decrying the authorization given the day before to a Newcastle laboratory to carry out experiments with human embryonic stem cells (CMEH) for therapeutic uses.

The permission is limited in time and subject to review. It was issued under the condition that it is exercised for strict «therapeutic» purposes and limited to the 14th day of the embryos’ development.

In the note, FIAMC President Gian Luigi Gigli said that «as always, the ‘ethical’ justification for the cloning studies is CMEH’s curative potential of such important illnesses as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and diabetes.»

«As always, the humanitarian ends are a simple veil which allows the manipulation of public opinion to conceal the enormous financial and industrial interests hidden behind the CMEH,» he added.

«Once again, the high uncontrolled growth potential of these cells, which signifies a high risk that they will deteriorate if used to repair or replace organs or tissues, has not been mentioned,» Gigli added. «Moreover, a powerful means has not yet been found to induce immune tolerance before the CMEH can be used.»

«Research with adult stem cells is not recognized, despite the fact that they are the only ones that have already given important results from the clinical point of view,» he added.

«In fact,» he continued, «just in the last weeks [the science journal] Nature has published a study carried out in California, demonstrating that cells from the brain of a rat are turned into cells of blood vessels; while German researchers published in The Lancet that stem cells derived from bone marrow improved cardiac function after heart attacks.»

«In the same magazine, English scientists published that skin cells were transformed into brain cells, fostering the hope of finding a cure for Parkinson’s free of ethical problems,» Gigli said.

«Paradoxically, The Lancet, one of the most prestigious medical magazines in the world, has started a campaign for research with human embryonic stem cells as the United Nations debate approaches on the prohibition of cloning, and U.S. voters are being polled,» the statement observes.

«A very recent issue of this magazine was dedicated almost exclusively to the medical, scientific and legal topics on stem cells, with an editorial that urged scientists to exert a strong lobby for the cause,» the FIAMC president said.

«Ironically, the magazine’s press note only underlines progress in the field of adult stem cells. However, the editorial stated that the clinical applications of embryonic stem cells are about to fall,» Gigli said in the statement.

«FIAMC reaffirms that it is ethically unacceptable to deliberately sacrifice the life of any human being, including in the embryonic state, even if it is done to improve the conditions of health of other human beings,» the statement said.

«FIAMC invites all Catholic doctors and researchers to become an active lobby, also on the occasion of electoral events, to obtain a total prohibition of all cloning of human embryos, even if it is for therapeutic reasons,» it added.

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