Christian News from Scotland

News stories from Scotland and beyond

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Kirk Backs Stem-Cell Research

An embryonic and adult stem cell research study, to be placed before the General Assembly in May, backs the limited use of surplus embryos from fertility treatments in stem cell therapy research.

The Society, Religion and Technology Project (SRT) examined the issue on clinical and theological grounds.

The report, issued by the Kirk's Church and Society Council, recognised that for some in the church "the embryo already has the same human dignity as a person who has been born".

The SRT working group included stem cell scientists, doctors, ethicists and theologians. Case studies looked at treating conditions such as neurodegenerative disorders, diabetes and blood diseases.

According to Doctor Donald Bruce, the Project convener, it is a matter of considerable debate as to at what stage in development one can talk about human beings having the full attribute of personhood. But the majority of the group are reported as taking the view that "the moral status of the human embryo" was not established until some time into its biological development after conception.

The group recommended that surplus human embryos arising from in-vitro fertilisation or pre-implantation genetic diagnosis should be used in stem cells research, subject to a 14-day limit.

It opposed the deliberate creation of human embryos for research by IVF methods or nuclear transfer cloning, except into serious diseases and only under exceptional circumstances.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, Doctor Bruce said "It's one thing to take an embryo that's now regarded as surplus to IVF and will be destroyed anyway and make some practical use of it.

"It's quite a different matter to actually create one, but the General Assembly will decide this in a month's time when it debates this formally, so we will wait to see whether they accept that viewpoint."

He added: "It is a matter of considerable debate as to at what stage in development one can talk about human beings having the full attribute of personhood and that is something we have been examining in real depth in this report."

SRT is a project of the Church of Scotland working with Action of Churches Together in Scotland and with the support of the Episcopal, United Reformed and United Free Churches.

The General Assembly meets in Edinburgh between Saturday 20th May and Friday 26th May 2006.

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