Click here to advertise on

European court bars patents on human embryos

Catholic World News - October 19, 2011

The European Court of Justice has ruled that patents cannot be granted for medical research that involves the destruction of human embryos.

The unanimous decision in the case of Oliver Brüstle v. Greenpeace was warmly applauded by Church leaders in Europe, while proponents of embryonic stem-cell research complained that it would interfere with medical progress.

The court ruled that patents could not be granted because the deliberation destruction of human embryos is “contrary to morality,” and European law prohibits patents for inventions based on immoral practices. The decision was based on a find that a human embryo is a developing human being, and is therefore due the protection that is accorded to human life.

The council of episcopal conferences of the European Union (COMECE) noted that the court’s decision “provides a broad, scientific sound definition of a human embryo.” COMECE welcomed the likelihood that the ban on patents for embryonic stem-cell research would open the doors to further research on stem cells derived from other sources.

The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano applauded the decision, providing a brief summary of the court’s key finding:

The ruling is subtle but clear. It affirms that a patent is possible on the use of human embryos if the invention has diagnostic or therapeutic aims with regard to the embryo in question. On the contrary, it cannot be the object of a patent if its use is aimed at scientific research. Moreover, the Court specifies that the procedures which allow for the extraction of human embryonic stem cells in their blastocyst stage – five days after fertilization – and bring about their destruction cannot be patented. In conclusion, the Court has not intervened on the possible creation and subsequent suppression of human embryos, but banning the patents places an important bulwark against these procedures.

Advocates of embryonic stem-cell research bitterly criticized the court’s ruling, saying that it would block the development of promising treatments for a number of diseases. To date, however, embryonic stem-cell treatments have not been shown effective in treating any disease.

The European court’s ruling does not apply to the United States, where patents have already been granted to dozens of lines of stem cells derived from human embryos. So the advocates of stem-cell research may redouble their efforts to secure American government funding.

Additional sources for this story
Some links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach seven million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Progress toward our April expenses ($33,195 to go):
$35,000.00 $1,805.25
95% 5%
Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: spledant7672 - Oct. 20, 2011 12:04 PM ET USA

    Glory be forever.

  • Posted by: Steve214 - Oct. 19, 2011 7:07 PM ET USA

    This is not a place we would look to find a victory: glory to God!

Subscribe for free
Click here to advertise on
Shop Amazon

Recent Catholic Commentary

The first steps toward liturgical renewal 20 hours ago
Boycott Apple? No; the effort is doomed to fail. 23 hours ago
Church Fathers: St. Justin Martyr March 31
Zooming toward Easter March 31
Why homosexuals need not worry over the Indiana law March 31

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Pope announces Jubilee: a Year of Mercy CWN - March 13