Statement from Archbishop Mario Conti Archbishop of Glasgow and member of the Bishops' Joint Bioethics Committee.
28 August 2002
"Embryos are not clusters of exploitable cells."
"The storage of thousands of human embryos is proposed by the Medical
Research Council, they would be used in the development of gene therapies.
They are subject to experiments and destroyed.
These embryos are either "superfluous" i.e.; left over from in-vitro
fertilisation procedures or created specifically as a bank of such cells.
Time and time again serious and well-informed commentators, including
persons within the medical profession have called for a public debate on the
use of such cells harvested from embryos. Time and time again responsible
opinion has been ignored and bodies such as the Medical Research Council
show themselves motivated more by financial than moral considerations.
These embryos are human beings, whether implanted in the womb and carried to
term, or reproduced and then destroyed in the laboratory. To create embryos
or pressurise couples undergoing IVF treatment to donate them purely with
intent to destroy them soon afterwards, however well intentioned, is morally
We do not as a society, have the right to initiate human life only to
destroy it, whether for selfish purposes, or for purposes, however nobly
intended, which render that life a means to someone else's ends. Human life
is not a commodity; a baby is not a product; an embryo is not a cluster of
Much recent research shows clearly that adult stem cells, in particular bone
marrow cells, are not only theoretically as potentially therapeutic as
embryonic stem cells, but have been shown in practice to have a therapeutic
effect in therapies already being developed. Their use has demonstrated an
advantage over embryonic stem cells in apparently having an inbuilt control
mechanism the lack of which in foetal stem cells gives rise to anxiety
regarding their risk of creating tumours. This is perhaps a case of good
medicine following good ethical practice, a view I am inclined to think is
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