The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Bishop Elio Sgreccia denounced as a “monstrosity” the new norms approved this week in Great Britain by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which allow the creation of animal-human embryos for the purpose of extracting stem cells for use in the treatment of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
Proponents of the new ruling held up a “support” survey of two thousand people who have no knowledge of the issue as evidence that the research should go forward.
With the newly granted permission to create hybrid embryos (part animal, part human) three teams of British scientists—one from King’s College London, one from the North East England Stem Cell Institute, and one led by Ian Wilmut, whose team cloned the sheep Dolly—will begin experiments to introduce human DNA into a cow egg in order to create embryos that would be 99.9 percent human and .01 percent animal.
Investigators argue that this macabre norm is needed because of the lack of human ovums for research. In response Bishop Sgreccia explained that up to now, international law prohibited this kind of genetic manipulation “because of the offense against human dignity” that it constitutes, “because of the risk of producing monsters” and “because of the morally high significance.”
He said the British government had “caved into a request from a group of scientists that it seems to me goes against the will of the majority and certainly against the morality of not only of Catholics but also of other religious groups and defenders of life, and against all rational morality, which up to now has been quite clear in all of the international treaties.”
Bishop Sgreccia said the scientists’ justifications were “mere excuses” for defending the indefensible and that experiments that are inhumane and illicit “cannot be carried out, not even with the hope of achieving a degree of success.”
“Success, if it exists, should come through human means. Good should be achieved through decent means; otherwise we are applying pure Machiavellian ideology to science and to scientific experimentation when what is at stake is human dignity,” he emphasized.
Likewise, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life recalled that experimentation on a living human being and its subsequent elimination has up to now only occurred in concentration camps. These experiments were forbidden by the Nuremberg Codes and the Helsinki Declaration. It’s important to emphasize that even though some labs are going to carry them out, that does not make them licit,” he said.
Bishop Peter Smith of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, also weighed in on the unprecedented ruling saying, “Human begins have one sole nature, specifically separate from animals,” and therefore nobody should wonder if it is “correct to exceed the limits of the species and try to mix human and animal natures.” “Instead of promoting this kind of ethically problematic research, why not encourage research with adult stem cells which is not controversial?” the bishop asked. “The Catholic Church is not against this kind of research and encourages that which is done with stem cells extracted from the blood and from the umbilical cord,” he stressed.