Church reacts to embryo cloning advance
Scientists could soon be creating cloned embryos for stem cell research after a Government committee yesterday backed the controversial technique of "therapeutic cloning".
The six-month inquiry called for cloning and embryo research laws to be dramatically relaxed, setting the stage for a bruising debate about medical ethics in Federal Parliament next year.
It also recommended the legalisation of controversial practices, including using animal eggs — with their DNA removed — to make cloned human embryos, and the creation of embyros from the DNA of more than two people.
However, it said the ban on reproductive cloning should remain because of ethical and safety concerns.
Headed by former Federal Court judge John Lockhart, QC, and including Nobel prize-winning gastroenterologist Barry Marshall, the committee will guide federal and state governments as they consider changes to the laws.
The Age reports that the the Catholic Church "attacked the recommendations, saying they lent support to the notion that it was OK to create human life and then dispose of it". It did not elaborate.
The Sydney Morning Herald quoted the director of the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, Gregory Pike, who said he was very disappointed by the extent of the report's recommendations, including the mixing of human and animal cells to obtain human embryonic stem cells, which many would find abhorrent.
"I don't see it is a reflection of community standards," he said.
The Adelaide-based centre is independent of the Catholic Church, although it works closely with the Church.
The ABC quoted bioethicist Nicholas Tonti-Filipini, who is a Catholic but does not speak on behalf of the Church.
"The real worry about it is that it recommends overturning the compromises that were reached by the Commonwealth Parliament in every case," he said. "In every single case where the Parliament settled on a compromise, they recommended overturning it in favour of research involving human embryos."
Embryo cloning gains backing (The Age 20/12/05)
One step closer to embryo cloning (Sydney Morning Herald 20/12/05)
Stem cell research receives favourable review (ABC Radio PM 19/12/05)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Stem cell research ban may be lifted (The Australian 20/12/05)
20 Dec 2005