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Westminster: Cardinal calls for National Bioethics Commission

 The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, made the following statement yesterday, following a report issued by the UK Parliament Science and Technology Committee, 'Human Reproductive Technologies and the Law'. The Cardinal said: 'I am deeply alarmed at this utilitarian report. It shows scant awareness that it is dealing with fundamental issues of respect for human life. I welcome the comments of those members of the committee who have dissented from its findings. The sanctity of human life requires national debate and reflection. I agree with the Committee's conclusion that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is not properly accountable for its decisions. There should be full accountability to Parliament. But that is not enough. We need a far broader public debate about these vital questions, which touch on the very origin and sanctity of life. 'That is why, today, I am calling for a national bioethics committee composed of health-care professionals, moral philosophers and theologians as well as social commentators. Its task should be to thrash out major ethical challenges posed by developments in biotechnology and to offer advice to government and Parliament before legislation is enacted. 'I hope Government and Parliament will give this proposal serious consideration.' A briefing paper is available on the Cardinal's website at: www.rcdow.org.uk/cardinal/