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Destruction of Human Embryos

Destruction of Human Embryos

Right to Life New Zealand Inc.
PO Box 668


Ph: (03) 385 6111

Fax: (03) 386 0447

11 May 2002

Embryo Research

The proposal of Dr Peter Benny, Medical Director of the Christchurch Fertility Centre, to destroy live human embryos in research is deplored as it is a violation of the human rights of the embryos.

Human life begins at conception and every human being has an inalienable right to life. The human embryo is a member of the human family and is entitled to respect and legal protection.

Every human embryo has a right to be conceived in its mothers womb. The child has a right not to be frozen and stored and not experimented on.

Dr Benny has said that there were an estimated 3,000 healthy embryos in storage left over from successful IVF treatments.

Scientists at Otago University with the Fertility Centre are conducting research to develop a genetic blueprint of a healthy baby using a procedure called a DNA chip.

Fertility experts hope to use this blueprint when selecting embryos during IVF, improving the chances of a pregnancy for couples who can't have children naturally.

The Fertility Centre will supply the embryos and has already obtained ethical approval from the National Ethics Committee on Assisted Human Reproduction (NECAHR) to use non-viable embryos that are deemed to be so imperfect that they will not develop into babies.

Dr Benny said there were many members who wanted to donate their spare embryos to research. Right to Life New Zealand upholds the duty of parents to protect and nurture their children. Parents do not have a right to give their embryos to scientists to conduct research that will destroy their children.

An application for approval to sue these embryos would be made as soon as the DNA chip was working. That is expected to be before the end of the year.

Dr Benny has said that "the issues have to be looked at very carefully but I think if the scientific hypothesis is sound and the research is well done then it should go on."

Initially, the researchers would have to extract all of the nucleaic acids from the embryos, totally destroying them.

This research raises important issues concerning the sanctity of human life. Is it ethical to conduct research on a human being which entails the destruction of that human being?

At the Nuremburg trials at the conclusion of World War Two, doctors who had conducted research on inmates of concentration camps were tried on charges of crimes against humanity.

The National Ethics Committee on Assisted Human Reproduction is a Ministerial Committee appointed by the Minister of Health. The Minister has given the committee terms of reference which includes eight key ethical principles which the committee is obliged to uphold when scrutinizing proposals for ethical approval.

It is disappointing that the sanctity of life ethic is not included as a key ethical principle. How then can we expect ethical decisions from the committee when there is no requirement to uphold the intrinsic dignity of every human being from the moment of conception?

In the opinion of Right to Life New Zealand, the proposed application of Dr Benny should be declined as it breaches five of the ethical principles.

Participant's right to autonomy

Participant's right to informed consent

Protection of Participants from undue harm

Freedom from coercion and inducement

Research and treatment merit.

The proposal of Dr Benny, who is also an abortion certifying consultant, is a further step on the slippery slope to a culture of death.

Life is a gift from God and we are but stewards. The destruction of human life in embryo research is not part of God's plan for the human race. It is an act of disobedience for man to seek to play God.

It was Albert Sweitzer who said that when we deny the right to life of any section of humanity we threaten the right to life of all.

Ken Orr


Right to Life New Zealand Inc.

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