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
"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