Switzerland Support for Embryonic Stem Cell Research Declines Before Vote

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 18, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Switzerland Support for Embryonic Stem Cell Research Declines Before Vote Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
November 18, 2004

Bern, Switzerland (LifeNews.com) — Swiss voters are expected to decide later this month whether to use taxpayer dollars to fund unproven embryonic stem cell research in the European nation. However, a new poll shows support for the referendum on the decline just two weeks ahead of the vote.

The new survey, conducted by the GfS Bern polling and research institute, showed just a slight majority favoring the controversial research.

The number of voters backing the proposal dropped to 52 percent, down 8 percent from the previous poll. The percentage of those opposed to the plan is up five points to 30 percent.

The rest, some 18 percent, remain undecided, a three percent higher figure than the last poll.

"This shows that the campaign against stem-cell research has made voters less sure of their choices," said Claude Longchamp of GfS.

Longchamp told Swiss Info that the question of using so-called leftover human embryos from fertility clinics is sparking an intense debate.

Opponents of the plan, including pro-life and disability rights groups as well as the Catholic Church, have made gains with both liberal and conservative voters, in the new poll. French speakers continue to support the proposal while German and Italian speakers are less likely to favor using tax money to destroy human life.

"[T]he implications of a ‘yes’ vote for the disabled seem to have troubled many voters," said Longchamp.

The conference of Catholic bishops in Switzerland has announced its opposition to the measure.

"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."

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.

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.

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