FaithWorld

France to renew tight bioethics limits, critics hit Catholic lobbying

ivf

(An in-vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure in Warsaw, October 26, 2010/Kacper Pempel )

France’s parliament opened debate on revising its bioethics laws on Tuesday amid protests that Roman Catholic Church lobbying had thwarted plans to ease the existing curbs on embryonic stem cell research. The bill, originally meant to update a 2004 law in light of rapid advances in the science of procreation, would also uphold bans on surrogate motherhood and assisted procreation for gays.

The debate coincided with news of France’s first “saviour sibling,” a designer baby conceived in vitro to provide stem cells to treat a sibling suffering from a severe blood disorder.

Critics of the bill said last-minute changes by deputies of the governing conservative UMP party meant the revision would hardly change the restrictive law currently on the books. The text retains tight limits for research on embryonic stem cells, a technology the Church vigourously opposes because the in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) method used to produce them creates extra embryos that are later discarded.

“The Catholics have succeeded in imposing their view on embryos and seem to be succeeding in their attack on this method,” said François Olivennes, a leading fertility expert, told Europe 1 radio. “We already have a very retrograde law compared to those in Spain, Britain, Belgium, Netherlands and all of Scandinavia. Nothing is advancing.”

Guestview: Catholics, Jews and petri dishes

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Rabbi Elliot Dorff is rector of the American Jewish University in California and chairs the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards.This article first appeared in the Forward, a Jewish weekly published in New York, and is reprinted with their permission.

By Rabbi Elliot Dorff

edwardsThis month, Robert Edwards, a professor emeritus at the University of Cambridge, won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for developing (along with Dr. Patrick Steptoe, who died in 1988), in vitro fertilization. The technique whereby eggs are removed from a woman, fertilized in a petri dish (hence the name “in vitro,” or “in a glass”), and then implanted into the womb, has enabled people to procreate who would otherwise not be able to have children. (Photo: Professor Robert Edwards, July 26, 2003)

Indeed, since Louise Brown, the first baby conceived through IVF, was born in 1978, some four million children have been conceived using this technique. Today between 1% and 2% of all babies born in the United States and other developed countries each year are conceived through IVF.

Vatican keeps up attack on Nobel prize for IVF pioneer

embryoThe Vatican kept up its attack on the Nobel committee on Tuesday for giving the medicine prize to in-vitro fertilization pioneer Robert Edwards, saying he had led to a culture where embryos are seen as commodities.

For the second straight day, it gave the thumbs down to the choice of Edwards, whose success in fertilizing a human egg outside of the womb led to “test tube babies” and later innovations such as embryonic stem cell research and surrogate motherhood. Several leading Italian newspapers criticized it for its attack on Edwards. (Photo: Cloned human embryo created at Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne in handout photo published May 19, 2005)

A statement by the Vatican-based International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations (FIAMC), said the group was “dismayed” at the choice. “Although IVF has brought happiness to the many couples who have conceived through this process, it has done so at enormous cost,” the federation said in a statement issued on Vatican letter head.

IVF spawns host of ethical issues

embryosIn vitro fertilization (IVF), the pioneering technique that won Robert Edwards the 2010 Nobel Prize for medicine, opened up a wealth of scientific options and a Pandora’s box of ethical dilemmas.

Edwards’s success in fertilizing a human egg outside of the womb led not only to “test tube babies” but also to innovations such as embryonic stem cell research and surrogate motherhood. (Photo: Frozen human embryos at the Priory Hospital in Birmingham, England, July 31., 1996/Ian Hodgson)

Amid the applause for these medical breakthroughs, ethicists from some Christian churches oppose IVF and techniques related to it because they involve the destruction of human embryos.  The bewildering array of options due to the IVF revolution — from the morality of making “designer babies” to exploitation of poor women as surrogate mothers — has created much concern and many debates among secular ethicists as well.

Obama signals open to change on stem cell policy

U.S. President Barack Obama signaled on Tuesday that he would be open to policy changes on stem cell research if the science on adult stem cells determined that thorny ethical issues could be avoided without harming medical advancement.

OBAMA/

Obama lifted restrictions on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research earlier this month, angering abortion opponents but cheering those who believe the study could produce treatments for many diseases.

Asked at a White House news conference if he wrestled with the ethics of the issue, given the promise in adult stem cell research, Obama said: