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Catholic World News News Feature

Vatican prelate denounces Korean cloning breakthrough May 20, 2005

The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life has strongly condemned the production of cloned human embryos by scientists in South Korea.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera that the advance trumpeted by researchers at the National University of South Korea were "abominable," since they had created human embryos solely to be destroyed and harvested for stem cells.

The Korean scientists announced that they had produced 31 embryos, direct clones of 11 living persons, in their laboratories. These human embryos were produced using a technique similar to that used by the scientists who produced the lamb named Dolly, the first cloned mammal, in England nine years ago.

The cloned embryos are to be used for the production of stem cells, which could be used in fighting diseases. Bishop Sgreccia emphasized, however, that the Korean scientists were engaged in the technique known as "therapeutic cloning." In that process, he stressed, any possible medical benefit "follows the suppression of one or more embryos."

"The suppression of a human being can merit only one judgment: it is unacceptable," the Italian prelate said. "To destroy one life in order to save another remains an aberration."

Bishop Sgreccia also reminded the press that scientists have demonstrated their ability to use stem cells taken from adult tissue-- with no negative moral implications-- to produce real medical benefits. Cells can be obtained from umbilical cords, or from adult bone marrow, and used for therapeutic purposes; whereas no benefit has yet been derived from embryonic stem cells. Thus the immorality of "therapeutic cloning" research is compounded by the fact that it has not shown any medical benefit.

The research breakthrough announced by Korean scientists was "something that the UN has declared illicit," Bishop Sgreccia observed-- although he noted that "unfortunately," the UN statement on cloning has no binding force. He suggested that the news from Korean demonstrated the consequences of "the lack of sanctions" for those who violate the UN policy.

On March 8 of this year, the UN adopted a policy that prohibits all forms of human cloning, including "therapeutic" cloning for research purposes.

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