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Sunday 23 March 2008

Cardinal responds to embryology critics.

In an article in Scottish Sunday newspaper (Sunday Herald) today (23 March 2008), Cardinal Keith O'Brien reiterates his opposition to the Government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill and responds to some of the criticisms made of his stance. The full text of the article appears below.

Peter Kearney  
Director  
Catholic Media Office
5 St. Vincent Place
Glasgow  
G1 2DH  
0141 221 1168
07968 122291  
pk@scmo.org  
www.scmo.org



"In my Easter Sunday homily this year I chose to highlight concerns about many aspects of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Reaction to my text, released on Good Friday, has been widespread. The coverage has focussed on the question of whether or not Labour MP s should be allowed a free vote and on the scientific justification for, among other things, the creation of animal “ human hybrid embryos.

On the matter of conscience, there is no doubt in my mind that this Bill is one on which all MP s should have a free vote. Since the Government have previously allowed free votes on issues such as fox hunting and the docking of dog s tails, I am amazed anyone would suggest otherwise.

On the question of justification for the use of stem cells taken from human embryos I think it is high time we deployed a great deal more rigour when listening to the hype-filled claims of those who experiment upon and destroy human life at its most defenseless.

Claim after claim that such research might , could or may lead to treatments for many diseases have been made for almost a decade without any substance. We continue to be told that experimenting on embryos will lead us to cures and treatments. Yet as the years have gone by not one single treatment or therapy has emerged. In the meantime research using adult stem cells has led to over 70 different therapies and treatments, without destroying a single embryo.  

It's worth remembering that the company, which created Dolly the sheep, went bankrupt without producing any useable treatments. Destroying human embryos is bankrupt science. It is both ethically and economically questionable and the sooner we stop accepting it the better.

Science is always about pushing boundaries and exploring possibilities. Just because something can be done doesn t mean it should be done. I wonder how many people reading this are pleased that Dr Robert Oppenheimer and his team on the Manhattan Project in the 1940 s succeeded in creating the atomic bomb. Their pioneering work in nuclear and theoretical physics has given us the ability to slaughter millions of our fellow human beings anywhere on the planet at the push of a button. Should we welcome that reality as a sign of progress or regret it as a symbol of humanity s arrogance?

The question of scientists' responsibility towards humanity is today painfully pertinent as they tamper with human life in its earliest incarnation.

As a science graduate I am well aware of the procedures and processes by which progress in the sciences is made. Yet I believe strongly that such research must always serve the public good. To establish what that might be we urgently need a single permanent statutory national bioethics commission. A body, which engages with public concerns and informs Parliament on complex ethical questions. It is unacceptable that matters of such immense public concern should be left to a simple vote by MP s.

It s worth remembering that France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Australia have all banned the grotesque procedures we seek to legalise. Could it be that the citizens and politicians of those countries care nothing for the chronically ill among them? Perhaps they don t want to develop cures or therapies; perhaps they are simply anti-scientific luddites! Or could it be that we are wrong and these democracies see no reason to attack the sanctity and dignity of human life when many alternatives exist?

Easter is a time of renewal and of celebrating the resurrection and the glory of life. In wishing you the peace and joy of this season I urge you to pray with me that we become a society that truly and deeply values all human life."

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