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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 28 August 2002

28 August 2002

28 August 2002 The British department of health has welcomed news that stem cells extracted from thousands of human embryos are to be stored in the UK's first national stem cell bank [see yesterday's digest ]. A spokesman for the department said: "The cell bank will provide researchers with accredited cell lines which have been ethically derived with proper consent from donors." Couples who undergo IVF fertility treatment will be asked to donate their spare embryos to the bank, which is being set up by the Medical Research Council. [The Times, 28 August ] Dominic Baster of SPUC said: "This development provides yet more proof that the advent of IVF has led to a terrible commodification of human life. Keeping surplus IVF embryos in frozen storage is unethical in the first place, and the extraction of their stem cells can never be ethical because it entails their destruction. Moreover, the parents have no right to consent to their offspring being plundered and destroyed in this way. Each and every embryo is a precious, individual human person." The Australian prime minister has ordered an investigation into an apparent attempt to mislead legislators about the potential benefits of destructive embryonic stem cell research. Mr John Howard was responding to revelations that video footage recommended to MPs by Professor Alan Trounson, a prominent supporter of destructive embryo research, which appeared to show a crippled rat making a recovery after receiving an injection of embryonic stem cells was misleading. Professor Trounson has admitted that the rat actually received cells taken from older aborted foetuses. Debate on the bill to authorise embryonic research has now moved off the floor of the House of Representatives to a parliamentary committee. [, 28 August ] A Catholic priest in the archdiocese of Detroit who claimed that support for abortion was an authentically Catholic position has been compelled to apologise by his archbishop, Cardinal Adam Maida. Fr Doc Ortman began his apology in his parish bulletin by writing: "At the request of Cardinal Maida, Bishop Kevin Britt [the local auxiliary bishop] has asked that I write to allay the fears of some that I am less than Catholic in my dedication to life." It is reported that Cardinal Maida took the step after lay Catholics in Fr Ortman's parish took to the streets in protest at his support for the pro-abortion stance of Jennifer Granholm, a local politician who is said to be a Catholic and is standing in the election for state governor. [LifeSite, 27 August ] Members of a committee of the European parliament have attacked the European Union's council of ministers for considering a moratorium on EU funding of destructive embryonic research. The funding would have formed part of the EU's sixth framework programme for research, but while the programme itself has already been approved, the content of the specific programmes to receive funding are the subject of qualified majority votes in the EU's council of ministers. Some MEPs from the industry committee, which originally drew up the Caudron report on which the sixth framework programme is based, have accused the Council's Danish presidency of violating a secret compromise which was agreed with the European Commission to close the ethical debate regarding EU funding of embryo research in order to leave the door open for the Commission to stipulate which ethical guidelines should be followed in the future. [SPUC Europe, 28 August] Researchers in the US have shown that stroke patients can benefit significantly from transplants of stem cells extracted from adult bone marrow. A team at Oakland university in Michigan induced strokes in a group of rats and then injected adult human stromal cells into three of them. After 14 days the rats completed tests on their reflexes and motor and sensory abilities 60% faster than in un-treated rats. [BBC News online, 27 August ] Adult stem cell research continues to offer greater potential for the treatment of disease than research on embryonic stem cells.

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