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Call to reject commercial harvesting of human embryos
Issued: 4 April 2002

Spokesperson for the Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations, Mary Joseph, today called on Prime Minister John Howard not to bow to pressure from commercial and other research groups to allow the destruction of human embryos for stem cell research. The issue will be considered by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) at its meeting on Friday.

Ms Joseph's call came following the announcement of prominent embryonic stem cell researcher, Professor Alan Trounson, that not only does he wish to pursue research which involves the destruction of 'spare' IVF human embryos from IVF programs but that he also wishes to clone new human embryos and then destroy them for their stem cells too. The Andrews Committee recommended a moratorium on this practice.

"It is only recently that Professor Trounson first changed his mind to demand the right to destroy embryos created as part of IVF programs. Now he has changed his mind again to demand the extra right to clone human embryos and destroy them too. What will he call for next to satisfy his immediate research interests?

"The benefits of embryonic stem cells to patients and the general public are non-existent in the short term and are very unclear in the long term", said Ms Joseph.

"Professor Trounson's new demand recognises the fact that if a successful therapy were developed after experimentation with embryonic stem cells cut from 'spare' IVF embryos, it would not be possible to apply these therapies directly to patients. Stem cells from surplus IVF embryos will never have medical application because they are not compatible with other patients and will be rejected as foreign tissue.

"Pressure is now being applied to allow the deliberate cloning of patients to obtain embryos which would then be destroyed for their compatible stem cells.

"To date embryonic stem cells have not helped a single human patient. Adult stem cells are an ethical alternative that have already been used for successful therapies. These cells can be collected from and used on a patient without harming the patient and without problems of rejection. Treatments using adult stem cells have been successfully applied to patients in areas such as juvenile diabetes, spinal cord injury and immune deficiency and new uses continue to be found."

Contact: Mary Joseph, spokesperson for the Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations, tel 02 6253 3100