Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
December 24, 2001
Bishops oppose gov't stand on embryos
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA — A recommendation by the Commons health committee to allow research on human embryos remaining after fertility treatments is a major disappointment for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"No amount of healing or good can justify the deliberate killing of a human being or using a human being as a means to an end," said the CCCB.
"The committee's decision is all the more puzzling because it heard evidence that adult stem cell research, which does not involve harming another human life, is showing remarkable promise."
In a report released Dec. 12, the committee agreed embryonic stem cell research "commodifies the embryo" but said licences for such research should be issued if it can be clearly demonstrated that non-embryonic sources "would not achieve the sought-after research outcomes."
However, the CCCB said in a news release that the committee's attempt to limit research on embryos left over from in vitro fertilization treatment only recognizes that "this is a profound moral issue with serious implications."
"Having abandoned the basic principle that human life cannot be destroyed for the potential benefit of others, it will be very difficult to maintain the limits that have been set on embryo research," said the bishops' conference.
"Experience with other serious moral questions leads us to believe that once the door is opened it will be very difficult to shut."
At a time when there is "increased sensitivity" by advertisers of bath and beauty products to using animals in testing, "society is at risk of having legislation which will for the first time permit research that will result in the death of a human being," said the bishops. "This is incongruous and deeply troubling."
Evangelical churches in Canada also said they are disappointed with the committee's recommendation on embryonic stem cell research.
"While we applaud the clear support for the prohibitions contained in the draft bill, the health committee missed the opportunity to close the door on the practice of sacrificing of human embryos for scientific research, a practice that is contrary to a deep respect of human life," said Bruce Clemenger, spokesperson for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.
Also opposing the recommendation was the Canadian Alliance, the official opposition in the House of Commons. The party called for a three-year moratorium on all embryonic stem cell research and said the deliberate destruction of embryos should be prohibited.
It also recommended that the final legislation "clearly recognize the human embryo as human life and that the statutory declaration include the phrase 'respect for human life.'"
Health Minister Allan Rock welcomed the committee's decision not to recommend an outright ban on embryonic stem cell research.
He told reporters "If we weren't able in Canada to conduct embryonic stem cell research at all, that would put us in a position where we're not able to do things that were possible in the United States, England and most other developed countries."
The health committee also recommended bans on practices such as human cloning, the sale and purchase of human embryos, the creation of embryos solely for research, genetic alteration, sex selection, the sale of human sperm or eggs and commercial surrogacy.
The CCCB said it was particularly pleased with the recommendation that the proposed legislation continue to ban the creation of embryos for research purposes. "Human embryos are human beings, who deserve to be respected and treated as human subjects, not as research objects," said the bishops.
Rock's bill is expected to be introduced in the House of Commons in May but the government says it could be the fall of 2002 before the legislation is passed.
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