British Prime Minister Tony Blair Wants U.K. to Lead Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 17, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Prime Minister Tony Blair Wants U.K. to Lead Stem Cell Research Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 17, 2004

London, England ( — British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he wants the European nation to lead the world in the controversial field of embryonic stem cell research.

Acknowledging the controversy of destroying human life to advance science, Blair said the research had the potential to save the lives of those who suffer from a number of diseases.

"We will not stop the research. The potential benefits are huge. I do not think it is right to deny people suffering from these illnesses the hope of a cure," Blair said in a speech.

"Our ambition is for the UK to become the science capital of the world. We are well on the way. I believe we can be the best," Blair said.

However, embryonic stem cells have failed to produce a single cure despite more than two decades of research. On the other hand, adult stem cell research, using cells from ethical sources that don’t destroy human lives, have already produced more than 120 treatments for numerous diseases and ailments.

Blair introduced a five-year plan to turn the U.K. into the embryonic stem cell research capital of the world. The plan also promotes human cloning.

"The government believes that all types of stem cell research, including therapeutic cloning, should be encouraged," the plan said.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children responded to Blair’s call for Britain to
become ‘the science capital of the world’ by appealing to the Prime Minister to promote policies that respect the human right to life.

"Embryonic stem cell research involves the exploitation and destruction of a human embryo, can never be justified and is legally questionable when there are ethical alternatives available that show considerable promise," John Smeaton, SPUC’s National Director, said in a statement.

"Tony Blair’s stance on issues such as embryo research, cloning and abortion has been consistently anti-life," Smeaton said.

Smeaton indicated the media was painting a false picture of the views of pro-life groups on stem cell research in general.

"Contrary to media reports, pro-life campaigning organizations such as SPUC have no objection to stem cell research per se and support any ethical research, for example the use of umbilical cord blood, that holds the possibility of finding cures for debilitating diseases," he explained.

Patricia Hewitt, Britain’s trade and industry secretary, backed up Blair’s comments, saying his administration wants to make the United Kingdom "the place to come" for stem cell research.

"We’re sending a strong signal to scientists around the world that the U.K. is the place to come to carry out research in leading edge areas," she said in a statement.