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Australian bishops urge ban on human cloning

The Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference has called on Australia's politicians to enact uniform legislation which comprehensively bans all forms of human cloning.

This follows news that US biotechnology company Advance Cell Technology's admission that it has cloned human embryos, and that support has been offered to this technology by researchers in Australia.

The Bishops, who have been meeting in Sydney this week, are arguing that the end does not justify the means - that no human life is expendable or exploitable, even for a purpose that is arguably a good one.

Bishops' Conference President Archbishop Francis Carroll said: "In the case of cloning, human embryos, the most vulnerable and completely voiceless members of the human family are destroyed on the pretext that they contain cells which may, at some time in the future, provide some cure for a wide range of medical conditions. The claims of biotech companies remain, at best, conjectural."

While supportive of ethically sound medical research, Archbishop Carroll noted that legislators around the world were understandably wary of the extravagant but unproven claims made by researchers in relation to cloning.

"More effort is required to promote research using adult stem cells because it offers less risk from an immuno-suppressive point of view and avoids all of the ethically and legally contentious issues posed by the destructive use of human embryos," he said.

Referring to a proosed meeting of the Council of Australian Governments to consider the recommendations of the Andrews Committee and the call for uniform national legislation in relation to cloning, Archbishop Carroll said: "The law has an important educative role as well as a protective one. Indeed, the call by a small group of researchers in Australia to allow cloning and their claim that Australia will fall behind in research if there is any ban is unprincipled and without foundation."

Religious leaders call for laws to ban cloning (AAP, 29/11/01)
Human Cloning Is Grave Threat to Life, John Paul II Says (Zenit 28/11/01)
Bishops support ethical research on stem calls (21/9/01)
Pontifical Academy for Life Declaration on the Production and the Scientific and Therapeutic Use of Human Embryonic Stem Cells