Italian Bioethics Committee Rejects Use of Human Embryos for Research

Including 'Spare' Embryos Resulting from Artificial Procreation

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ROME, MAY 13, 2003 (ZENIT.org-Avvenire).- The National Bioethics Committee (NBC) of Italy considers it ethically unacceptable to use human embryos for stem cell research, including 'spare' embryos, resulting from artificial procreation techniques.



Of the 41 members of the committee, 26 voted in opposition to experimentation, 10 were in favor, and 5 opted for an intermediary position, leaning toward opposition.

Leticia Moratti, Italian Minister of Education, Universities and Research, requested the NBC's opinion in connection with the European Union's 4th research framework program.

The NBC President Francesco D'Agostino explained the position of the governmental consultative body, affirming that "the embryos are human lives with full right." Therefore, the "moral duty" exists to respect and protect them "in their right to life, regardless of the way in which they were procreated."

Given the Oviedo Convention and the Nice Letter, the NBC also expressed opposition to the eventual public funding of this research, since it would impede "the ever more promising and ethically impeccable use of stem cells from umbilical cords, naturally aborted fetuses, or 'adult' stem cells."

According to D'Agostino, there are two reasons for the NBC's 'no.' "One is of an ethical order: if the embryo is a human life with full rights, it has a total right to life that must be recognized."

The other reason "is of the pragmatic order: if permission was given for the use of spare embryos, there would be a risk of endorsing a fraud, namely, the creation of embryos for their reproductive use but, in fact, destined for research," the jurist explained.

The position of the minority, headed by Demetrio Neri, "emphasized the pragmatic character more: it puts ethics between parenthesis to opt for a compromise solution," D'Agostino clarified.

"Given that these spare embryos exist and will have a bad end, according to those in favor, they should at least be used for research," he continued.

The committee's president pointed out also that, unlike the usual scientific protocols, in the case of stem cell research, preventive research on animals has not been exhausted.

"I am afraid that scientists, in the hurry to attain scientific and economic objectives, want to force the methodologies," D'Agostino concluded.