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Vatican Condemns US Approval of Embyronic Stem Cell Experiments

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The Vatican has condemned the recent decision by U.S. regulators to allow the use of embryonic stem cells in clinical tests on human patients.

Catholic News Service quotes Bisop Elio Sgreccia, president emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who stated, “The destruction of human embryos involved in such research amounts to ‘the sacrifice of human beings’ and is to be condemned.”

The CNS story cites the U.S. Food and Drug Administration providing final approval for a clinical trial of embryonic stem cells as a treatment for patients with spinal-cord injuries, making the United States the first country to allow the testing of such cells on human beings.

In an interview with Vatican Radio, Bishop Sgreccia said science itself recognizes the human embryo "is a human being in the making."

Destroying embryos "receives a completely negative judgment" from an ethical point of view, no matter what justifications are given for their use, he said.

The Italian bishop said embryonic stem cells have not been proven to be effective in therapies. He said embryonic stem cells are "totipotent," that is, they tend to reproduce a whole organism or individual, but not specialized cells.  However, even if there were positive results from the use of such cells, "morally it would still be a crime," he said.

The church supports research and therapies that utilize adult stem cells and stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood. Both are demonstrating success in laboratory research.

Catholic teaching on the issue of adult versus embryonic stem cell research is available at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Web site.