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British decision prompts Vatican to renew stem cell warning

The Vatican reiterated its firm opposition to human cloning yesterday after a group of British scientists was given a licence to create stem cells used in medical research from a cloned human embryo.

The Courier-Mail reports that the green light was given to scientists from the Centre for Life at Newcastle University who aim to use the stem cells cloned to treat serious diseases.

"The Holy Father has always unequivocally condemned all forms of human cloning, even for therapeutic purposes," Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.

Back in the UK, Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics director Dr Helen Watt told Independent Catholic News that she is "appalled but not surprised" by the news that the licence had been granted.

Linacre is supported by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales.

Dr Watt said: "Therapeutic cloning creates a human life in exactly the same way as 'reproductive' cloning does. The only difference is that the embryo is intended not for birth but for laboratory destruction.

"It is extraordinary that at a time when adult stem cells are already used to treat a whole range of diseases, the HFEA should consider it 'necessary' to create and destroy human clones.

"Cells from early embryos are difficult to control and have not so far produced a single treatment. Even if treatments were discovered, many patients would have moral qualms about their use.

Scientists claim that stem-cell technology is intended to create material that could one day treat diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's disease and other disorders, and not to make a cloned child.

The Vatican said it would make a detailed assessment on the British research once more details emerge.

Vatican stem cell warning (The Courier Mail/AFP 13/8/04)
Campaigners protest as UK grants first licence to clone (Independent Catholic News 12/8/04)

Scientists are given permission to clone human embryos (The Independent 12/8/04)
Britain allows cloning of human cells for research (Boston Globe 12/8/04)
Embryonic stem cell breakthrough branded a moral disaster (Southern Cross August 2004)
The Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics
Centre for Life

13 Aug 2004