Stem Cell Breakthrough Seen as Providential

Church Only Opposes Anti-Human Research, Says Official

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By Miriam Diez i Bosch



ROME, NOV. 29, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The president of a group of Catholic medical associations welcomed the news of a stem cell research method that doesn't destroy human embryos, saying divine providence is indicating a path to researches and doctors.

Doctor Josep Simón, president of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, told ZENIT that the breakthrough published Nov. 20 is particularly appealing to Western results-based societies. Two reports published last week showed how scientists generated pluripotent stem cells from human skin cells. The method avoids the ethical concerns raised by embryo-destructive research.

"It appears that providence is indicating the path to doctors and other researchers," Simón told Zenit. "Catholic doctors still have some difficulties bringing many people to understand and accept that nascent human life is worthy of all respect. Nevertheless, only the research and treatments based on adult stem cells are giving results.

"With [adult stem cells], embryos are not destroyed and besides we have results. And results are valued a lot in our Western developed and efficient societies."

Simón said he is glad the breakthrough shows that a morally acceptable technique is also the medically best.

"I don't know how well we would have been able to communicate [our message] if the embryonic stem cells would have given results," he said. "Providence has saved us from the difficulty of having to say: 'You can offer cures with embryos buy you should follow this other path, since the destruction of embryos is immoral.'"

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told Vatican Radio he also welcomed the breakthrough.

"Now that there is no need for embryos nor therapeutic cloning -- professedly therapeutic -- a chapter of sharp polemics is closed," he said. "The Church had confronted this for ethical reasons, encouraging researchers to continue with adult stem cells and declaring it illicit to sacrifice the embryo.

"The ethic that respects man is useful also for research and confirms that it is not true that the Church is against research: It is against bad research, which is harmful to man."