Embryonic stem cell research is 'a moral imperative', says German academy

December 17, 2003

Brussels, 16 Dec 2003

Embryonic stem cell research is not only morally admissible, but may be a moral imperative, according to a report published by Europäische Akademie, a German foundation for the study of the social implications of science and technology.

Launched on 15 December in Brussels, the report states that there is a moral obligation on society to allow research on embryos in order to help people who suffer from as yet untreatable or insufficiently treatable disabilities or diseases, such as infertility. The academy adds that the interests of researchers working in the area of clinical research also outweighs society's general interest in protecting embryos.

Bringing together bio-medical, moral, legal and social aspects, this interdisciplinary study was carried out over two years by a group of experts appointed by the academy.

In its report, the group focuses particularly on the different national perspectives on embryonic stem cell research, and comments on the ongoing failure of EU Member States to agree on measures for supporting this kind of work with EU funds. Because views differ between countries, 'future legislation on embryo research and other controversial matters in science and technology policy will have to be both flexible and informed,' say the report's authors. 'A simple 'Yes' or 'No' solution concerning legal harmonisation in Europe is, therefore, not in sight,' they conclude.

A categorical ban on embryo research at European level, as called for by some Member States, including Germany, would be a step backwards, says the group. However, there is no guarantee against such an outcome, according to the report, given that a large majority of the European population base their attitudes towards embryo research not on concrete evidence, but on 'images of fear, stereotypes and beliefs.'

Despite this discouraging context, the group still believes in the necessity of a European wide harmonised regulation of embryonic stem cell research. The researchers propose that it be based on sound scientific evidence and provide a long term, stable environment for researchers to work within.

Europäische Akademie's report, 'Embryo research in a pluralistic Europe' was supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

For further information, please consult the following web address: http://www.europaeische-akademie-aw.de

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