Embryos a La Carte

Taking a Stand Against a Disregard for Life in the EU

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Here is a contribution from Imre Téglásy, PhD, the director of Human Life International Hungary.

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It’s one of the oldest stories known to man – the wealthy who will pay anything, or do anything, to prolong youth. Nine defendants face criminal charges before a Hungarian Court for collaborating in a venture to provide “treatments” promising to help them regain lost vigor, mental acuity, even youthful appearance. The grisly enterprise came to an abrupt end with a raid by a Hungarian government agency in July 2007.

According to the charges on file, the defendants’ wealthy customers paid five million Hungarian forints, about $25,000 US, for a single shot of an as-yet-undetermined concoction of tissue and stem cells taken from aborted children.

Initially an alliance between Ukrainian abortionists and “aesthetic physicians” in Barbados, the operation moved to Hungary after it was shut down following an expose on the BBC in 2006. The famous story that led to the clinic in Barbados being shuttered appalled many, but resulted in no criminal charges being brought, despite harrowing tales of newborn children being stolen from young mothers in Ukraine and dissected for organs believed to contain the most valuable stem cells for “therapeutic” use. Once exposed, several of the perpetrators simply moved to Hungary and restarted their high-price service for those who have enough money to roll the dice and subject themselves to medically-unproven treatments of unknown origin.

In July 2007, three of the defendants currently under trial were arrested at a Budapest hospital that had contracted with the clinic. István Seffer, the owner of Seffer and Renner clinic in Kaposvár, Hungary was also arrested while consulting with plastic surgery clients at a nearby facility. At the front end, the Seffer and Renner clinic provided plastic surgery and OB-GYN services, while offering the expensive and untested “treatments” out of the back end. In a brazen misstep, however, the clinic kept the same name of the defunct project in Barbados, the Institute for Regenerative Medicine (IRM).

According to the allegations, the bloody scam involved several characters. István Seffer owned and operated the clinic which housed IRM. Performing the “treatments” was proctologist Yuliy V. Baltaytis, a Ukrainian professor who self-published two massive “studies” on the subject that are neither peer-reviewed nor considered accepted among the European or international medical communities. Baltaytis injected the embryonic cocktail into wealthy patients solicited by art collector Imre Pákh and gastronomy expert Ádám Fásy, both of whom apparently have dual Hungarian and U.S. citizenship. The material for the treatments was prepared by Ukranian biologist Natalia Karnikova, who also worked out of IRM.

The Seffer and Renner clinic is still in operation. The owner’s brother, Tibor Seffer, apparently still performs abortions and other procedures at the clinic. The IRM obtained official approval for collecting and storing stemcells and entered into contracts with four Hungarian hospitals where abortions were performed. It is unclear how many of the aborted children’s remains used by Baltaytis came from Seffer-Renner’s own clinic, or other hospitals,  and how many  were obtained and used by Baltaytis.

The charges faced by the defendants have nothing to do with abortions legally or illegally performed, or with the destruction and manipulation of human embryos, since IRM apparently had all permits necessary to perform this work. What Baltayis and his colleagues stand accused of is using human cells for treatments in a for-profit venture. If found guilty, they face between three and eight years imprisonment.

Among the clients of this ethically-bankrupt enterprise was 2007 Miss Hungary and Catholic University of Budapest student Krisztina Bodri, who is described in the media as Seffer’s partner. The IRM also enjoyed high-level political support – present at the opening of the clinic in 2007 was the then-Hungarian Minister of Labor and current Socialist Party MP, Mónika Lamperth.

All of this unfolds as the European Union considers a massive investment in biomedical research, seeking to keep its research institutions at the forefront of developments in biotechnology. Entitled “Horizon 2020,” the proposal as it is currently written does not exclude obtaining research material from aborted human beings, and would create an EU fund of 90 billion Euros to fund the research.

Standing opposed to stem cell research that would destroy and utilize unborn human beings is a European Citizens’ initiative entitled “One of Us.” This movement has proposed a change to Article 16 of Horizon 2020, which deals with “ethics and principles,” that would completely preclude the use of embryonic stem cells for research, or fund any research that presupposes the destruction of human embryos.

The good news is that the One of Us campaign stands on solid – and recent – legal precedent in opposing the destruction of human beings for research purposes. As argued by the European Center for Law and Justice,

The initiative may avail of reasoning adopted by the European Court of Justice in the case of Brüstle v. Greenpeace(C-34/10) on the 18th of October, 2011. In this case, the judges of Luxembourg defined the human embryo as an organism “capable of commencing the process of development of a human”, whatever the mode of procurement of this organism (IVF, cloning, etc). The Court of Justice also aligned law with science, in recognizing that human life begins at conception, and that it deserves legal protection from the moment of conception, in particular with regard to the principles of respect for bodily integrity and human dignity. It is in light of this protection that patenting must be excluded from all processes that ring about the destruction of a human embryo through the use of a sample of stem cells obtained from the embryo.

The One of Us campaign, launched by European MP Carlo Casini in 2012, must obtain at least one million signatures from at least seven EU member states before November 1stof this year. Any citizen of a Member State of the EU which is of voting age can support the initiative online on www.oneofus.eu.

Absent the changes proposed by the One of Us campaign, it is hard to see how the abuses perpetrated by those now on trial could be stopped throughout Europe. Although the EU has limited authority to intrude into domestic legislation concerning bioethical issues, a 90 billion Euro infusion of funding can result in massive loss of life, all under the guise of “progress” and “science.” Given the stakes, there is little willingness to compromise on the part of those behind the 90 billion Euro Horizon 2020 project. As lofty as their goals may sound, the motive is hardly distinguishable from the one behind the abuses of that other officially sanctioned entity – the Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

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<em>Imre Teglasy, PhD is the director of Human Life International Hungary. Human Life International wholeheartedly supports the One of Us campaign, and invites all citizens of the nations of Europe to get involved at www.oneofus.eu

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