Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of Edinburgh and leader of Scotland’s Catholics, has written an editorial for a British newspaper criticizing the “hype-filled” claims used to advocate the creation of human-animal hybrid embyros. He described the hybrid research itself as involving “grotesque procedures.”
Writing in the Wednesday issue of the Guardian, Cardinal O’Brien said, “I think it is time we deployed a great deal more rigor when listening to the hype-filled claims of those who experiment upon and destroy human life at its most defenseless.”
He said that claims about the hypothetical potential of human-animal hybrid research had been made for almost a decade, “without any substance.”
“As the years have gone by, not one single treatment or therapy has emerged,” the cardinal said. He claimed that research using adult stem cells has led to over 70 therapies and treatments “without destroying a single embryo.”
Cardinal O’Brien emphasized that scientific research must have ethical limits. “Just because something can be done doesn't mean it should be done,” he said. “The question of scientists' responsibility towards humanity is today painfully pertinent as they tamper with human life in its earliest incarnation.”
The cardinal noted his own background as a graduate in the sciences made him understand many of the processes by which scientific understanding advances. He said he believed “strongly” that scientific research “must always serve the public good.”
Other countries, he noted, had banned the creation of human-animal hybrids.
“France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Australia have all banned the grotesque procedures we seek to legalize. Could it be that the citizens and politicians of those countries care nothing for the chronically ill among them?”
“Or could it be that we are wrong and these democracies see no reason to attack the sanctity and dignity of human life when many alternatives exist?” the cardinal asked.
The cardinal also cited a recent opinion poll reporting that 67 percent of Britons are completely opposed to the creation of human-animal hybrids.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown last month said that human-animal hybrid research would ensure that “lives will be saved” and “treatments and cures will be available.” Cardinal O’Brien said such statements are “not only complete scientific fantasy, but are blatantly untrue.” The cardinal said that they were a “cruel deception” to sick persons and their families.
Cardinal O’Brien cited a recent statement of molecular biologist Dr. David King, who said, “There is abundant evidence that even if stem cells are obtained (from hybrid embryos) they will be so abnormal as to be useless."
The cardinal accused the prime minister of “making hopelessly inaccurate statements on scientific matters he clearly doesn't understand,” and urged him to meet with scientists in the field. The cardinal offered to facilitate such a meeting, and then repeated his call to fund “both ethical and effective” adult stem cell research.