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Kirk voices concern ahead of crucial embryos debate

Senior Kirk spokesperson Reverend Ian Galloway, convener of the Kirk’s Church and Society Council, has warned in a letter to all Scottish MPs enclosing the 2006 General Assembly report on Stem Cell research, that experiments on human embryos would violate the sanctity of life.

Mr Galloway was writing ahead of the third reading of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, which is expected to be debated next Wednesday (22 October) in the House of Commons.

If it is voted through, it would lead to the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos specifically for use in generating embryonic stem cells for experimental and therapeutic purposes

Mr. Galloway warned that this would set a dangerous precedent: “The Bible strongly encourages us to care for the sick and to use what we have been given for the benefit of others. It also calls us to be wise and sometimes not to do what is possible because of other consequences.

“As it stands, the Bill would give scientists licence to create human embryos for no purpose other than research.

“Essentially this means the creation of human embryos for a purpose other than creating a life, something the Church of Scotland has stood against for a long time. This is an example of it being unwise to do what is possible, especially as the end result can be achieved in other more ethically acceptable ways.”

Mr. Galloway also pointed out that after more than a decade all treatments derived from embryonic stem cell research have failed. On the other hand, non-embryonic stem cells have been used successfully for more than 70 treatments worldwide.

He commented: “We would urge the government to encourage research into stem cells derived from adult tissues and placental cord blood, and to work to find therapeutic solutions which avoid embryo use.”

The Kirk also notes with unease that the debate on what are inevitably controversial areas around human reproduction often appears to be portrayed as one of “scientists v. the church”.

This false dichotomy, and the emotive terms sometimes deployed, are to be regretted and are unhelpful in progressing this debate.

Mr. Galloway concluded: “The Church welcomes vigorous and informed debate on these and other issues, and reiterates its view that all scientific endeavour must be properly ethically informed. Our task is not to judge but to speak so those who have to decide are as fully informed as they can be about the views of all the communities they represent.”

• Full story at the Church of Scotland.

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