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"No need to destroy 'surplus' embryos"
Issued: 20 September 2001

Spokesperson for the Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations, Alison Hope, today expressed disappointment that the House of Representatives Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Inquiry into the Scientific, Ethical and Regulatory Aspects of Human Cloning had recommended allowing the destruction of 'surplus' human embryos created as part of IVF programs. The Committee tabled its report in Parliament today.

"While the proposed ban on deliberately creating human embryos just to extract their stem cells is a positive feature of the Committee's report, the concept that some existing embryos are 'surplus' is repugnant. It implies that the inherent value and worth of human beings depends on whether they are wanted or not wanted", said Ms Hope. "All human beings, embryos or otherwise, are entitled to have their right to life respected.

"Given that experimentation on human embryos results in their routine destruction, it's sad to see that the mere possibility of developing new therapies can lead to serious ethical concerns being swept aside.

Ms Hope pointed out that alternative sources of stem cells are available.

"The impression is often given that, if our society wishes to develop therapies to treat people with debilitating illness, there is no alternative but to destroy embryos", said Ms Hope. "In fact no one is arguing against the development of therapies using stem cells. It is the source of the stem cells that is being disputed.

"Adult stem cell research is an alternate and very promising area of research, which does not involve the destruction of a human life. An added benefit of using adult stem cells is that stem cells can be taken from the actual patient under treatment, thereby reducing the risk of rejection.

"A second positive aspect of the report is the recommendation for cloning legislation that is nationally consistent and applies to both the public and private sector", Ms Hope added. "Unfortunately, however, if the recommendations are implemented as written, such legislation will simply institutionalise an abuse of human rights, by sanctioning the destruction of embryos for research."

Ms Hope appealed to Australians not to shut their eyes to ethical concerns in the heat of enthusiasm about hoped-for 'cures'.

"For many years some scientists claimed that tissue harvested from aborted foetuses showed great promise for treating conditions such as Parkinson's disease. In the event, the experiments failed. Now similar claims are being made about human embryonic stem cells. Let's remind ourselves that, despite sometimes exaggerated claims, we are still quite a way from making good the promise of stem cell research."

Issued: 20 September 2001

Contact: Alison Hope, spokesperson for the Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations, 02 6253 3100