Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Germans Call for Embryo Cloning Ban


Germans Call for European Ban on Embryo Cloning

German top doctors and political parties react to Britain's decision toallow human embryo cloning by calling for an EU ban on the practice and forBerlin to issue a more critical ethical position.Though cloning is already illegal in Germany, medical associations and abroad roster of politicians on Friday called on the government to take astrong ethical stand on the issue and push for a binding international ban.The move came after Britain on Wednesday gave scientists the go ahead toclone human embryos for purposes of medical research. British law, however,still prohibits the actual cloning of humans.Leading the charge, the German Medical Association called for the completeprohibition of all forms of embryo cloning. "We can't allow embryos to beharvested like raw materials," association president Jörg-Dietrich Hoppetold reporters. Other medical experts concurred. "The indivisibility of human rights arebeing eroded under the blanket of research freedom," said Frank UlrichMontgomery, chairman of the Marburger Association of Doctors. He also calledfor a Europe-wide law protecting embryos. Most politicians unitedWolfgang Wodarg -- a member of the ruling Social Democratic Party andchairman off the bio-ethics commission in the Bundestag, Germany'sparliament -- called Britain's decision a "catastrophe." The SocialDemocrats' junior coalition partner, the Greens, have also called for theinternational community to forbid cloning."It's up the German politicians to work towards holding together the nationsthat have spoken out against cloning," Christa Nickels, a leading Green andchairwoman of the Bundestag's human rights committee, told public radiobroadcaster Deutschlandfunk.A cloning ban also found resonance with Germany's conservative opposition.The Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the ChristianSocial Union, called for the imposition of a cloning ban and criticizedBritain's move as "unacceptable." Maria Böhmer, deputy chair of the CDU's parliamentary group, said that byallowing cloning "the human being is degraded to a material. It's anextremely alarming and disastrous development for Europe." Not a single one of Germany's three biggest parties supports the lifting ofthe current ban -- even for medical research. Nickels of the Greens notedthat enormous progress has been made in conventional treatment of a numberof diseases. Citing diabetes as an example, Nickels said the disease couldbe effectively and inexpensively fought using preventative measures likenutrition programs for children. Discord prevailsHowever, the move by the British found support in at least one mainstreamGerman political quarter. The neo-liberal Free Democrat Party called themove to allowing human embryo cloning a "logical step," since cloned animalcells have been used in Britain since 2001 without breaking any taboos.It would be irresponsible to promote the "patient tourism," which wouldresult if one country developed therapies unavailable in others, just soGermany "can stay in its own ivory castle," said Ulrike Flach, an FDP memberand chairwoman of the Bundestag's research committee. "German politicians are finally going to have to start dealing withtherapeutic genetic questions," she said.

Author DW staff (sms) http://www.dw-world.de
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