Stem cell researcher fears Church 'could obstruct cure'
A leading researcher into stem cells has hit back at last week's Australian Bishops' statement calling for a ban on all forms of human cloning, suggesting that the research the Church is trying to block "could produce a cure for AIDS".
Professor Alan Trounson, head of the Monash University research group involved in advanced stem-cell research, said the use of embryos left over from IVF programs could within a few years lead to cures for diseases ranging from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease to leukaemia, HIV and heart disease.
But last week Tasmanian senator Brian Harradine called for all government grants to companies or individuals involved in embryonic stem-cell research to be cut because they were "tinkering with the essence of human life".
Then the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference called for a ban on all forms of human cloning, including the use of cells for medical research. Francis Sullivan, chief executive officer of Catholic Health Australia, said it was wrong for researchers to kill the human life contained in a cell in the hope of improving life for others.
The cells he was using came from days-old embryos which under Australian law would have to be destroyed after being stored for five years. The potential of the research to help the sick was enormous.
"There are thousands of these embryos being discarded," Professor Trounson said. "Now don't tell me it would be better to put them in the bin than to make embryonic stem cells that might help someone."
Respect and protect life - don't abuse it (Catholic Health Australia 30/11/01)
Australian bishops urge ban on human cloning (30/11/01)
Vatican and Bush deplore cloning of human embryo (The Tablet 1/12/01)