.- Bishop Anthony Fisher, auxiliary bishop of the of Sydney, told a Senate committee on Friday that Catholic hospitals would not treat patients with cures derived from embryonic stem-cell research, a process that destroys human life. Neither will they take part in the controversial research that necessitates the destruction of the embryo.
The Australian Senate is hearing submissions on a private members’ bill that would allow the creation of cloned human embryos for research.
The bishop said that his brief underlined that the Catholic Church “embraces stem-cell research as long as it is conducted in ethical ways,” such as adult and cord blood stem-cell research.
The proposed legislation propose that ethical considerations, such as the foundational principle of medical research ethics, primum non nocere, first do no harm, be cast aside in pursuit of experimental goals and commercial opportunity, he said.
“Cloning the human being is ethically abhorrent … and a denial of universal human dignity,” he said.
“Therapeutic” cloning is “much more unethical” than “reproductive” cloning, he added, because “not only does it create human life in an immoral way, but it does so with the object of killing that human being for parts.”
“We have never before proposed the creation of two classes of human beings: those intended for life and those marked for death. We implore our leaders not to cross this line.”
The bishop noted that some people have tried to exclude Catholic voices from the debate. However, he reminded listeners that the Catholic Church “is the oldest and largest healthcare provider in the world” and its worldwide network of universities, medical schools, teaching hospitals, hospices and nursing homes “provides the best that contemporary medical science and nursing art have to offer.”
“The Church is not anti-science,” the bishop said. “But we do ask that science be carried out in ethical ways and this concern is no monopoly of Catholics.”
Catholic Health Australia chief Francis Sullivan said in a separate statement that a decision to overturn the cloning ban is likely to set a dangerous precedent that human life is “expendable” and undermine the principle of protecting innocent human life. Catholic Health Australia was scheduled to present a separate brief before the Senate.
Prime Minister John Howard has granted Parliament a conscience vote on the issue and the House voted to retain the ban in August.
Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott said Australia must not pursue human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research, but the Lockhart report review of stem-cell research recommended overturning the ban on therapeutic cloning.