Bishops urge 'rule out' therapeutic cloning

 At their meeting in Leeds this week, the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales made the following statement: We are greatly concerned by the implications of allowing the cloning of human embryos for research purposes, soon to be decided by Parliament. The government has undertaken to allow a free vote on the new regulations to be put forward following the report of the chief medical officer, Professor Donaldson. We urge all who are concerned about the profound ethical implications to write to their member of Parliament.We believe that research on cloned human embryos is both immoral and unnecessary. It is immoral because it involves the deliberate creation and destruction of new human lives for the sole purpose of extracting stem cells for research. It strips an individual human life, in its earliest form, of all dignity, reducing it to no more than a commodity, a supply of disposable organic matter. It is also unnecessary because other avenues of stem cell research exist which may offer the same potential benefits without the ethical difficulties. Scientific medical advances have brought our society extraordinary benefits, and we recognise the laudable motives behind research to cure disease. But what is technically possible is not for that reason alone morally acceptable. The claim that embryonic stem cell research is essential for new medical advances has been brought into question by recent breakthroughs in adult stem cell research. The Royal Society admitted this month that it is not known whether research on embryonic or adult stem cells will ultimately prove to be of greater value therapeutically. In these circumstances, the right course surely is to press ahead with research that will command acceptance and support throughout our society, so that everyone will be able to accept treatments derived from such research. We welcome the government's undertaking to bring in legislation prohibiting so-called 'reproductive' cloning. We urge members of Parliament to exercise their free vote to rule out the creation and destruction of cloned embryonic human lives as well.

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