EU Stem Cell Program Allows Complicity, Says Vatican

President of Pontifical Academy for Life Offers Assessment

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 26, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The stem cell research program approved by the European Union is a threat to the life of human embryos, says the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.



According to an agreement reached Monday, the seventh EU Research Framework Program, for 2007-2013, provides for research with already existing stem cells, on condition that they have not been obtained by the destruction of human embryos. About €50.5 million ($63.7 million) has been allocated for the program.

The condition, however, conceals an unacceptable compromise for the Church, said Bishop Elio Sgreccia, the president of the pontifical academy.

"The decision of the Council of Ministers is made explicit with three statements," the prelate said Tuesday on Vatican Radio. "The first says that the researcher is prohibited from doing away with the human embryo to extract the desired cells.

"The second statement, however, says that this researcher -- and others -- can take recourse to cellular lines produced by other researchers -- researchers who have done away with living embryos and have produced cellular lines from them, which then have been commercialized."

A collaboration

"Therefore," Bishop Sgreccia explained, "a coincidence of interests is established between those who sell and prepare the cellular lines and those who buy them. From the ethical point of view, this coincidence of interest implies a complicity, a collaboration, as the moralists say, which does not exempt from participation in the responsibility of those who, in the first place, have produced and sectioned the embryos, and commercialized their cells."

The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life continued: "The third statement says that research protocols can be produced for the financing geared to using already frozen embryos and that they cannot be implanted in the mothers' uterus, if there is previous proof of their death.

"However, we know that to verify the death of these frozen embryos it is necessary to unfreeze them and, in unfreezing them, some of them die, and for the time being there is no technique that can diagnose their death."

Disharmony

Therefore, "it is not clear how it is possible to follow this route without causing the elimination of embryos," said the 78-year-old bishop. "If the embryo is what it is, that is, a human being, we realize that these three statements are not in harmony with one another."

For this reason, the prelate offers two considerations of an "ethical-political" character: "The first is that, on this route, the right to life of these embryos is not safeguarded. And that it is a grave issue that Europe, in a Parliament of this representation, does not recognize this primary right, the first of all others, the right to life.

"As it is also grave that the legislation authorizes the manipulation of the human being in virtue of the principle: 'I kill to get advantages for others.'"

The second consideration presented by Bishop Sgreccia is that "Europe, which at this time commits itself appropriately and collegially to halt acts of violence and war in the near Mediterranean, has carried out a grave act of incoherence in not opposing a destructive research, which is violent, even if exercised at the beginning of life which, however, is the same as that of all our children, of all of us who have come into the world."

For its part, in an article signed by Marco Bellizi in today's Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, describes this European decision as "the macabre product of a misunderstood sense of progress."