More MS news articles for July 2001

Germany Critical of US Embryo Research

HAMBURG, Germany (Reuters Health) Jul 13 - The German Medical Association has issued an extremely negative response to the announcement in the US this week that the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine at the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia has harvested stem cells from embryos that were created for the express purpose of research.

All official bodies in Germany have sought to distance themselves from the American announcement, which comes at a sensitive time in Germany's own ongoing debate over gene and embryo research. Until recently, a consensus had emerged that supported constructive debate over the use of stem cells in medical research. Without wishing to change Germany's Embryo Protection Law, the government had encouraged the debate in parliament.

The American research has encouraged opponents of embryo research into raising their voices and may embarrass those who have led the movement for reform.

Professor Dr. Jörg-Dietrich Hoppe, the President of the German Medical Association, had called for a moratorium on the importation of embryo stem cells into Germany, prior to the American research. The importation of stem cells from abroad had served as a loop-hole in the existing law, allowing for the possibility of stem cell research. The latest developments have fuelled fears over the origin of imported stem cells.

"It is most reprehensible," Professor Hoppe commented in a press release, "to create human life only in order to obtain biological raw materials, and impossible to justify ethically."

"The scientists make themselves in this way masters over the life and death of human embryos. Their actions contradict elementary ethical principles and international agreements like the European Councils' Human Rights Convention on Biomedicine. The egg cell, fertilised and capable of development, is and remains human life worthy of protection," he said.

The research appears to have taken others by surprise. The German Research Association (DFG), which had positioned itself as one of the leaders of the reform movement, promised an official response to the American research next week.

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Ltd