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Cloned embryos not a panacea for treating degenerative diseases, say CMF

Published: 20th May 2005

In the wake of news that British scientists have successfully cloned a human embryo and Korean scientists have developed new stem cell lines from cloned embryos, the Christian Medical Fellowship today called on the government and the media to exercise restraint. The CMF urges both to paint a more balanced picture of the significance of these developments.

Peter Saunders, CMF General Secretary of CMF, said, “The day is now closer when scientists will attempt to implant embryonic stem cells into human patients. But many major safety, logistic and ethical issues have yet to be addressed.

“The British media and public have been consistently misled into believing that cloned embryos are a panacea for treating degenerative diseases. This is the direct result of the Government’s failure and unwillingness to highlight the dangers and to rectify misconceptions about the properties of the more ethical alternative of adult stem cells. These misconceptions were peddled in the now seriously dated 2000 Donaldson report Stem Cell Research.

“Such selective interpretation and presentation of scientific data is both irresponsible and dangerous - because it raises false hopes in vulnerable people. Honest and balanced reporting of the facts should always take precedence over the prestige and profit motives of the government and biotech industry. Sadly however the Government continues to spin the facts whilst carrying on acting in defiance of a UN ban on therapeutic cloning.

“The international community, another fact that rarely gets media coverage, increasingly views Britain as a rogue state in this research”.

Verified accomplishments of adult (non-embryonic) stem cell research are already providing hope and therapy for patients suffering from heart muscle injury, diabetes and brain damage from stroke with realistic promise for treating other diseases on the horizon. But we hear virtually nothing of this from the British government or media. Adult stem cells are versatile, require limited, if any, manipulation, and are readily available from a number of sources. The cost of their clinical application will be far less and there are no ethical concerns in their use - making them acceptable to virtually all patients and healthcare providers.

Embryonic stem cells, by contrast, may now be easier to obtain than they were, but they remain difficult to develop and maintain. They are also unstable and mutate in culture.  There are also significant risks of malignant potential and spread of infection. In addition, vulnerable women egg donors will be exposed to the dangers of fertility drugs in return for cash or other benefits.

Peter Saunders added: “In addition to safety considerations, the CMF remains implacably opposed to embryo cloning because it cannibalises and destroys human embryos as a means to an end. This runs counter to the Judaeo-Christian ethic, enshrined in our legal system and in international codes such as the Declaration of Geneva (1948). This affirms unequivocally that human life - at every stage of its development - deserves the utmost respect.

“Therapeutic cloning will also lead inevitably to reproductive cloning. Once cloned embryos exist, theoretically all that is needed to produce human clones would be to implant them in a womb – a technique that is simple to perform and impossible to police”.

Saunders concluded, ‘Rather than pursuing unethical and unproven research into embryos, the government should put taxpayers’ money into ethical research that will lead to us getting the most affordable cures for patients, more quickly.’

For further information:

Steven Fouch (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9668

Media Enquiries:

Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225

About CMF:

Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 5,000 doctors, 900medical and nursing students and 300 nurses and midwives as members in all branches of medicine, nursing and midwifery. A registered charity, it is linked to over 100 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.

CMF exists to unite Christian healthcare professionals to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.

Christian Medical Fellowship:
uniting & equipping Christian doctors & nurses
Contact Phone020 7234 9660
Contact Address6 Marshalsea Road, London SE1 1HL
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Registered in England no. 6949436. Registered Charity no. 1131658.
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