Ethicist defends therapeutic cloning ban

The director of the Plunkett Centre for Ethics at the Australian Catholic University has spoken out against calls from scientists for a lifting of the ban on therapeutic cloning.

CLICK HEREIn supporting scientists' calls for an immediate lifting of the ban, Australian ethicist Julian Savulescu argued yesterday it would be "immoral" not to allow the technique to be carried out here because of its medical potential.

"This could save millions of lives," Professor Savulescu, director of the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at Oxford University, told the committee reviewing the laws regulating cloning and research on human embryos at a public hearing in Sydney.

However the Sydney Morning Herald reports that Bernadette Tobin, the director of the Plunkett Centre for Ethics at the Australian Catholic University, said that even though embryos created by therapeutic cloning did not involve the union of an egg and a sperm, they were still human embryos and it would be wrong to destroy them.

Legislation passed in 2002 permits the extraction of embryonic stem cells from excess IVF embryos, but bans the technique scientists refer to as somatic cell nuclear transfer, otherwise known as therapeutic cloning.

It involves taking the DNA-containing nucleus from a patient's cell and putting it into a human egg which has had its nucleus removed. The embryonic stem cells that can then be extracted are perfectly matched to the patient. The technique is permitted in countries including Britain and Israel.

The committee reviewing Australia's legislation, chaired by a former Federal Court justice, John Lockhart, is required to provide its recommendations to Parliament by 19 December.

Cost of clone ban too high: scientists (Sydney Morning Herald 9/9/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Plunkett Centre for Ethics, Australian Catholic University

Catholics urged to speak up on cloning (CathNews 14/7/05)
Church pushing for status quo on cloning (CathNews 5/7/05)

International Conference on the Human Genome (Vatican Information Service 6/9/05)
International Vatican conference to explore human genetics in light of the Word of God (Catholic News Agency 6/9/05)

9 Sep 2005