On Bioethics

catholic moral standing on the special ethics of life

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Coming from a different angle, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales have told a parliamentary committee that human-animal hybrid embryos conceived in the laboratory should be regarded as human and their mothers should be allowed to give birth to them. The government is currently studying legislation which will allow the creation of chimeric embryos so long as they are destroyed within 14 days. However, the bishops do not see why “interspecies” embryos should be treated any differently than others.In their submission to the committee, they said: “At the very least, embryos with a preponderance of human genes should be assumed to be embryonic human beings, and should be treated accordingly. In particular, it should not be a crime to transfer them, or other human embryos, to the body of the woman providing the ovum, in cases where a human ovum has been used to create them. Such a woman is the genetic mother, or partial mother, of the embryo; should she have a change of heart and wish to carry her child to term, she should not be prevented from doing so.”

However, the bishops still oppose the creation of chimeras — and most of the other provisions in the proposed legislation — as a violation of human rights. ~ London Telegraph, Jun 27   



Nature has launched a new website dedicated to news and views about stem cells. “Our goal is enlighten and promote communication in stem cell research by providing content as diverse as the stakeholders in this field — all the scientists, policy makers, ethicists, clinicians, and patients who are driving stem cell research forward,” says Nature Reports Stem Cells.Apart from serving as a way of keeping non-specialists and lay readers up to date, the site also seems committed to promoting embryonic stem cell research. One of its first comment pieces come from a Lutheran theologian who offers a theological justification for chimeras. Ted Peters, of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, finds that reasons offered by Catholics and Evangelicals are insufficient to proscribe the creation of chimeric human embryonic stem cells.

The “yuck factor”, he feels, also fails in the face of the great possible good from this research. He even finds that arguments against the creation of hybrid creatures are “weak”, although for the moment, this would be unwise. “When more is known, such a policy could be revised.” ~Nature Reports Stem Cells   


Another Australian state is on the road to approving therapeutic cloning and embryonic stem cell research. After a heated debate in the media, the lower house of the New South Parliament has voted 65 to 26 to support it, following the lead of its southern neighbour, Victoria. But generating even more controversy than the scientific and ethical issues of stem cell research were remarks by the outspoken Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell. He has had to weather a blizzard of criticism over his comment that Catholic parliamentarians faced unspecified “consequences” for their religious life if they supported the bill.Premier Morris Iemma, a Catholic, voted for the bill. “I’ve already thought seriously about this legislation and it passes all the ethical and moral issues that I need passed, and gives people hope,” he said. Emergency Services Minister Nathan Rees even suggested that Pell’s intervention might constitute contempt of parliament. This was also mooted on the other side of Australia, in Perth, where similar remarks made by Catholic Archbishop Barry Hickey were referred to that state’s parliamentary privileges committee. Speaker Fred Riebeling said they had been “threatening” to MPs.

Cardinal Pell, who funds adult stem cell research, was unmoved. “Adult stem cell has been much more productive than work on embryonic stem cells, which so far has proved to be a dead end. Little has been produced except massive grants for the researchers,” he argues. ~ Sydney Morning Herald, Jun 7