Catholic Bishops in Switzerland Oppose Embryonic Stem Cell Research Measure

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 8, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Bishops in Switzerland Oppose Embryonic Stem Cell Research Measure Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 8, 2004

Bern, Switzerland ( — The conference of Catholic bishops in Switzerland has announced its opposition to a measure Swiss voters will consider later this month that would allow the destruction of tiny unborn children for use in research. If the proposal passes, "leftover" human embryos from fertility clinics can be used by scientists wanting to obtain stem cells for research.

The bishops’ conference says it has "ethical reservations" about the ballot proposal, which will face a vote on November 28.

The Swiss bishops described the vote as "delicate and very important," according to a Zenit report.

"Normally, the CVS (Swiss bishops conference) does not give pointers on how to vote," the bishops said. However, "a fundamental issue of bioethics is involved relating to the dignity and intangibility of human life," they explained.

The bishops have written a booklet about stem cell research and explained their views on the referendum. They promote the use of adult stem cells as opposed to embryonic and said they may be obtained "without causing harm to the person."

According to Zenit, Marisa Jaconi, a biologist at Geneva’s University Clinic, requested federal funding for her team of researchers to study embryonic stem cells imported from the United States. With no law providing guidelines for such grants, in September 2001 the National Swiss Fund allowed funding for the project.

After the funding, the Switzerland Department of Health drafted a proposed law regulating the use of embryonic stem cells, but that action prompted pro-life groups to begin a signature campaign asking for a public vote.

Yes to Life, Swiss Aid for Mother and Child, and Human Life International-Switzerland collected more than 90,000 signatures of Swiss citizens who oppose the destructive research in order to force a popular vote on the issue.

A survey conducted late last month shows Swiss voters favor the proposal.

The 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 for reproductive purposes would remain banned but researchers would be able to destroy unborn children from fertility clinics up to seven days old to obtain stem cells.

Officials say there are more than 1,500 "spare" human embryos in Swiss fertility clinics and 200 more created annually.