Spain Advances Embryonic Stem Cell Research, Switzerland May be Next

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 30, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Spain Advances Embryonic Stem Cell Research, Switzerland May be Next Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 30, 2004

Madrid, Spain ( — Despite objections from the Catholic Church, Spain’s new Socialist government has put forward guidelines that would allow researchers in the European country to conduct research that involves the destruction of human life.

The Popular Party, Spain’s more conservative political party had previously passed a more protective law prohibiting the use of human embryos in research, but the new government weakened the restrictions, according to a Reuters report.

Now, scientists can use "leftover" human embryos created by fertility clinics.

"It is not ethical to place obstacles and difficulties in the way of scientists who are using their talent and knowledge to improve our capacity to treat illness," Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega told a news conference.

The decision, released Friday, also increases the number of embryos fertility clinics are allowed to create for each client.

Meanwhile, in Switzerland, voters appear to be in favor of legislation that would also allow scientists to destroy human embryos from fertility clinics in research.

They survey, conducted by the GfS Bern polling institute for the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, showed 60 percent of Swiss voters backed the legislation. Some 25 percent opposed the proposal and 15 percent were undecided.

Despite its unproven status and failures in clinical trials, Swiss voters say they hope embryonic stem cell research will succeed. The use of adult stem cells, which are considered more ethical, have already produced over 140 treatments for diseases and ailments.

Men were more likely than women in the Swiss poll to favor the legislation and French and Italian speakers were more likely to approve of the destructive research than Germans.

Under the proposal, human cloning would remain banned and researchers would be able to destroy unborn children up to seven days old.

Pro-life groups collected more than 90,000 signatures of Swiss citizens who oppose the destructive research in order to force a popular vote on the issue.