No cloning cures for Catholics, says Bishop Fisher

Catholic hospitals are unlikely to allow cures or treatments derived from cloned embryos, Bishop Anthony Fisher told a Senate Committee hearing on Friday.

The Age reports that Bishop Fisher was responding to questions by Liberal Senator Kay Patterson on the first day of hearings by a Senate Committee looking into legislative responses to the Lockhart Review that recommended therapeutic cloning be allowed in Australia.

Bishop Fisher told the inquiry the Church was likely to maintain its opposition to therapeutic cloning - that involves creating a cloned embryo for its stem cells - even if it resulted in research and cures down the track.

"I think if in fact what the cures involved was using parts taken from very early human beings that had been killed to get those cells, and then lines grown from them for that purpose, we'd have to say that you couldn't morally cooperate in that activity," Bishop Fisher said, according to Associated Press.

"You couldn't derive benefit from it personally.

"Certainly any direct advantage gained for a particular patient, I'd have to say, would be excluded because of the way it was gained.''

Labor senator Clare Moore asked if that meant the treatments would not be allowed in any hospital operated by Catholic health groups.

"I don't believe so, no," he replied.

Senator Patterson's private member's bill to remove the ban on therapeutic cloning will be voted on by parliamentarians in the next month or so. Prime Minister John Howard has granted Parliament a conscience vote on the issue after his own MPs rebelled against a cabinet plan to shelve the Lockhart recommendations.

GP Sally Cockburn, who was listening to the inquiry, told the Age she was concerned that while the Church had "every right to follow their beliefs, I would want patients to be told ... before they went to those hospitals".

Meanwhile, Catholic Health Australia chief Francis Sullivan will today tell the Senate that in taking forward the Lockhart Committee's recommendations into legislation, "the Senate will be taking a moral position on the status of the human embryo which effectively undermines the principle of protecting innocent human life".

"The Senate will be enshrining in law a utilitarian evaluation of the human embryo. That is, the embryo is expendable. The embryo is not a valuable as futuristic research," Mr Sullivan will say.

"This is a dangerous precedent. The Australian Parliament will be making a profound statement about the expendable nature of human life."

"It is simply sophistry," Mr Sullivan says, "to seek to assuage moral consciences by distinguishing between embryos created for research and those for reproduction."

"This bill does raise moral questions and it does seek to down grade the moral status of the human embryo. On those grounds alone is should be rejected," he will argue.

Church urges faithful to reject stem cell cures (The Age, 21/10/06)
Stem cell medicine to be banned (News.com.au, 20/10/06)
Opening Remarks, Bishop Fisher (ACBC, 20/10/06)
Catholic Health Australia (Remarks by Francis CEO, 23/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Health Australia
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

Bishops step up campaign against cloning (CathNews, 20/10/06)
Proponents of therapeutic cloning should cool it: Pell (CathNews, 25/8/06)
Catholic groups reject claims of stem cells breakthrough (CathNews, 24/8/06)
Poll shows Australians against cloning, Campion Director says (CathNews, 22/8/06)
Abbott lashes "evangelical" stem cell scientists (CathNews, 21/8/06)
Catholic parliamentarians in firing line again over stem cells (CathNews, 16/8/06)
Catholic union official compares therapeutic cloning to Nazi experiments (CathNews, 4/8/06)
Premiers face stem cell backlash as Hart criticises debate (CathNews, 24/7/06)
Catholics divided over stem cells (CathNews, 14/7/06)

23 Oct 2006