Sydney Uni approves pro-life deed for land

In a multi-million dollar deal approved by Sydney University's Senate last night, St John's Catholic College is to cede land to the university for a cutting-edge medical research centre subject to a pro-life deed banning fetal stem cell research.

In the deal the college has agreed to hand over to the university 70,000sqm of its land at Camperdown, which adjoins the university's inner-city campus, in return for a "minimum of $11 million" and the conditions covering stem cell research.

But health experts and students has expressed outrage at the proposal - modelled on an original deed dating back to the 1850s - saying it was the latest example of the Catholic Church trying to interfere in medical research, the Australian reports.

The proposed deed says "no part of the building (can be) used for human fetal stem-cell medical research or any other procedures involving the termination of human life or the artificial creation of human life".

According to St John's College rector David Daintree, "we as a Catholic college have a problem with termination of life, abortion and euthanasia".

The new $350 million eight-building facility, planned for 2011, will house researchers from across the biosciences but the university said those who engaged in the restricted study areas would have to do so elsewhere on campus or "across the road" at nearby Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

According to a university spokesperson, the deed will not impact on any other medical research carried out anywhere else in the university.

However, the director of the Sydney University-based Australian Health Policy Institute Stephen Leeder told the Australian that the limitation sounded "very odd" and was another example of Catholic ethics conflicting with the imperatives of medical research.

Queensland University executive dean of health sciences Peter Brooks said it was "dangerous" for any university to enter deals with such caveats.

Student Representative Council president, Angus McFarland, also told the Australian that it was outrageous a health and medical research facility would be banned from such research.

"I'm really concerned that is going to be compromising academic freedom," he said.

St John's, the oldest Catholic tertiary institution in Australia, has been part of Sydney University's Camperdown campus for almost 150 years.

In vitro to continue in Townswille

Meanwhile, the Townsville Bulletin reports that in vitro fertilisation services will continue in the North Queensland city despite a pending takeover of the Wesley Hospital by the Catholic Church-run Mater Hospital.

The Mater is in talks with the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to purchase the hospital, which will spell the end of IVF services in the building.

But Mater Hospital CEO John Amery says the services will continue elsewhere.

Townsville already has another existing day surgery which provides IVF services at Monash IVF Townsville.

"I don't believe the consumer in Townsville will see any difference to their ability to access in-vitro fertilisation services whatsoever, other than the fact it will be in a different building," Mr Amery said.

"That building will be in a similar sort of situation geography."

Townsville Diocese Bishop Michael Putney also defended the Church's stance saying that "no hospital offers all services and Catholic hospitals don't offer all services".

"When we negotiate to purchase another hospital we always make it clear that there are some services we won't be offering because they're not consistent with our Catholic beliefs and practices.

"Everybody knows that in advance and no one therefore should be shocked."

Deal to ban fetal research at uni site (The Australian, 6/2/07)
Uni to vote on church's demand for stem cell research ban (ABC News, 5/2/07)
Stem cell ban for $350m centre (Daily Telegraph, 6/2/07)
IVF chief confirms services (Townsville Bulletin, 5/2/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
St John's College

6 Feb 2007