Catholic ethicists oppose cell research fasttrack

Catholic bioethicists have weighed in on a debate prompted by comments from Victorian Treasurer John Brumby, who says current laws, which only commit the use of spare IVF embryos for stem cell research, are stalling the development of important areas of research.

CLICK HEREMr Brumby appeared before a committee reviewing national cloning legislation in Melbourne yesterday, where he called for new laws to allow for therapeutic cloning of stem cells.

The Age reports that some ethicists outside the Catholic Church have argued that it would be immoral not to lift the ban. Australian ethicist Professor Julian Savulescu, director of the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at Oxford University, says it "could save millions of lives."

However, Dr Bernadette Tobin, director of the Plunkett Centre for Ethics, run by the Australian Catholic University and St Vincents Hospital in Sydney, says the creation of embryos in order to destroy them is ethically unacceptable.

"It is not a religious argument,: she contends. "Human embryos are deserving of our protection."

The report in today's Age says big advances have also been made with non-controversial adult stem cells, the semi-specialised cells found in many organs in the body. Earlier this year Australian researchers funded by the Catholic Church and led by Professor Alan Mackay-Sim of Queensland's Griffith University showed that stem cells from the nose can turn into nerve, heart, liver, kidney and muscle cells.

Dr Gregory Pike, director of the Catholic Church-linked Southern Cross Bioethics Institute in South Australia, says the benefits of embryonic stem cell research have been overstated, and it is unnecessary because adult stem cell research is showing so much promise. There are also concerns that embryonic stem cell transplants could lead to cancers.

Call for relaxation of stem cell restrictions (ABC Radio PM 29/9/05)
The cell division (The Age 30/9/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Southern Cross Bioethics Institute

Pell calls for stem cell research ban (CathNews 21/9/05)
Pell announces new grant for adult stem cell research (CathNews 26/7/05)
Cardinal Pell hails stem cell discovery (CathNews 22/3/05)
Sydney Archdiocese announces Church funding for adult stem cell research (CathNews 26/3/03)

Cardinal tells Govt of embryo research fears (Catholic Weekly 2/10/05)
Bid to ease stem cell cloning law (The Age 29/9/05)

30 Sep 2005