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National Catholic Bioethics Center Statement on Proposed Method for Extracting Embryonic Stem Cells by Embryo Biopsy

Contact: Mark Bradford, National Catholic Bioethics Center, 215-877-2660


PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 25 /Christian Newswire/ -- The publication of research by scientists from Advanced Cell Technology in the journal Nature shows that there is a strong desire, even in the scientific community, that embryonic stem cells might be derived without the destruction of the embryo. However, this procedure has profound moral problems, not the least of which is the immorality of engendering human beings through in vitro fertilization.


The protocol for blastomere extraction/stem cell derivation published by researchers at Advanced Cell Technology faces at least 3 serious ethical objections which render it unacceptable:


1)      This technique, sometimes referred to as embryo biopsy, requires a non-therapeutic intervention performed on a human embryo. Research carried out on a human subject for the sake of others is subject to special restrictions if the subject cannot give consent, and it is permissible only if it involves minimal risk. In this procedure at least 10 percent of the embryo’s body mass is removed for research, not for the purpose of treating that specific embryo-patient for a known medical condition. The embryo is employed as a starting source for harvestable raw materials in a gesture of reducing young humans to commodities or manipulable products.


2)      This method or extraction can only take place following in vitro fertilization. It is a serious violation of human dignity to engender human life apart from the intimacy of the marital union. The only fitting home for a human embryo is in the warmth and shelter of its mother's womb, not in the open lights of the laboratory being violated in Petri dishes.


3)      Human embryonic stem cells must be utilized in co-culture to derive stem cells from the extracted blastomere, so the protocol still relies in a direct way on the destruction of young humans.


This procedure is a clear violation of standard research protocols for the protection of human subjects and would be rejected by any properly constituted institutional review board. In addition to these clear moral difficulties the eventual outcomes of this manipulation on the embryo are not sufficiently known, hence the publication of this experimental protocol fails to provide an ethical avenue to pluripotent stem cell research in the future.


The National Catholic Bioethics Center encourages continued research into other recent studies that indicate the possibility of deriving embryonic stem cells by ethically unquestionable means.