UNIVERSITY College Cork has wholly denied allegations from a pro-life group that it is intent on “destroying human life”.
The Pro-Life Campaign, which aims to defend human life at all stages from conception to natural death, maintains embryonic stem cell research involves the destruction of human life at its earliest stage of development. According to the campaigners, the research cannot, and can never, be justified.
Pro-Life insists that the Irish people, not University College Cork, should decide on the issue.
But, in a statement released to the Irish Examiner, a UCC spokesman said a proposal being considered today does not recommend destructive research on living human embryos.
The university said the proposal advises that any UCC researcher who wishes to engage in research on stem cells, should be allowed to do so “only through the importation of cell lines which have been created from cells derived from embryos in jurisdictions where such research is subject to strict guidelines”.
The proposed policy, the college said, seeks to ensure that in the current legal vacuum which exists in this area in Ireland, university researchers may only carry out such research subject to a strict internal regime of scientific and ethical oversight.
“Embryonic stem cell research offers the potential to increase understanding of, and develop treatments for chronic human disease such as neurological, heart, liver, muscle and bone disorders, immune disease and cancer,” said the UCC spokesman.
He said current and future generations of patients with devastating diseases depend on the scientific and medical community to use their expertise and knowledge to search for solutions that will result in a better quality of life for them and their families.
“In recognition of the serious and complex issues involved in embryonic stem cell research, UCC’s University Research Ethics Board undertook a lengthy process of consideration of these issues and consulted with staff before drafting a policy which was then discussed by three separate university bodies,” he said.
“It also took cognisance of two independent expert reports published in this context in Ireland in recent years — the Report of the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction (2005) and the Opinion of the Irish Council for Bioethics (2008).”
The spokesman emphasised that as there is no legislation or national policy on the issue, the university has sought to take steps that would ensure the strictest internal controls.
According to the Pro-Life Campaign, Ireland should aim to become a world leader in adult stem cell research, while at the same time explicitly rejecting the notion of allowing destructive research on living human embryos.
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