No medical benefits ‘can justify the destruction of human embryos’, says Pope Francis

No medical benefits ‘can justify the destruction of human embryos’, says Pope Francis
May 19 12:19 2017 Print This Article

Pope Francis has praised scientists working on treatments for genetic diseases, but condemned any use of human embryos in medical research.

The controversial topic was brought up at a Vatican event on Thursday aimed at raising awareness of Huntington’s disease, an incurable genetic disorder.

‘I encourage you to carry out (your work) in ways that do not contribute to nourishing the ‘throwaway culture’ that sometimes creeps into the world of scientific research,’ he said.

‘We know that no end, even a noble one like the expectation of a benefit for science, for other human beings or for society, can justify the destruction of human embryos,’ the Pope added.

Fertility chiefs previous been accused of putting science before ethical principles after giving the go-ahead for scientists to edit the genes of human embryos.

For instance, last year researchers in the UK were granted a licence to ‘cut and paste’ the DNA of donated embryos as part of an investigation into miscarriage.

The work is controversial because it involves altering ‘germline’ DNA that is inherited.

All the embryos used will must be destroyed after two weeks and it will be illegal to implant them into a womb.

But critics say regulators acted too hastily, and set scientists on the start of a slippery slope towards the creation of genetically modified ‘designer babies’.

Pope Francis echoed these concerns at an event at the Vatican yesterday.

Of those that attended the Vatican event, 150 suffered from Huntington’s, whom the Pope personally greeted upon arrival.
The disease is a degenerative brain condition that can eventually make a person unable to walk, talk or swallow.

It is a genetic disorder that causes brain cells to die resulting in personality changes, mood swings, involuntary movements and slurred speech.

Many attendees travelled from Latin America, where some countries are disproportionately affected by the disease, to listen to the Argentine pontiff.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) says 2.7 people in every 100,000 globally present the disease – not including gene carriers.

But prevalence is up to 1,000 times higher in pockets of Latin America, where social stigma often leads to the isolation of those affected.

Thursday’s Vatican event was not the first time that the pontiff has addressed the scientific community on their work.
Last November, Pope Francis praised atheist Stephen Hawking for his brilliant work during an audience with scientists at the Vatican.

The pair met in Rome as members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences gathered for a conference.

Francis appeared delighted to greet the theoretical physicist, who has met three previous Popes, by touching his shoulder as he welcomed him warmly.

The pontiff then addressed a group of scientists, saying their role in finding creative solutions to the world’s problems is more urgent than ever.

He also praised the increasing collaboration between scientific and religious communities in stopping climate change.

‘It falls to scientists, who work free of political, economic or ideological interests, to develop a cultural model which can face the crisis of climatic change and its social consequences, so that the vast potential of productivity will not be reserved only for the few,’ the Pope said.

He called on science and religion to work together to address water shortages, renewable forms of energy and food security.

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