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Vatican slams fertility treatments

Dr. Kirsty Horsey

Progress Educational Trust

22 May 2004

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[BioNews, London] The Vatican has launched a new attack on IVF and other fertility treatments that may involve embryos being destroyed, describing them as 'a massacre of the innocents', and adding that 'no war or catastrophe has ever caused so many victims'. In the latest statement, issued by the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life, all treatments used to create life without sexual intercourse between a man and his wife are deemed 'illicit' because embryos created by assisted reproductive technologies are not the fruit of 'a conjugal union'. It went further, to describe fertility clinics where embryos are stored, as 'concentration camps of ice'.

The comments came in the form of a final statement from the Pontifical Academy, published in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano. The communique is part of the outcome of a conference hosted by the Academy last month, entitled 'The dignity of human procreation and reproductive technologies: anthropological and ethical aspects'. The Vatican has long held the position that embryos are human beings and therefore deserve all the rights and dignity granted to living people. At the conference, the Pope told delegates that fertility research, other than that designed to naturally overcome sterility, places 'essential values at stake, not only for believers, but for the human being'. He added: 'Science should study the causes of male and female infertility in order to halt the suffering of married couples who wish, with a child, to confirm their mutual gift to one another', but said the 'natural act' of conception 'cannot be replaced by technological intervention'.

Not all elements of the assisted reproduction process are condemned by Vatican officials, however. Fertility drugs given to help women ovulate are considered to be acceptable, as they still allow for natural conception to take place. But whilst it recognises the suffering that infertile couples go through, the Pontifical Academy statement says that there should be 'limits', and the 'desire for a child' should not be transformed 'at all costs' into a 'right to a child'. This explains the Academy's comments on gamete donation, which it called 'morally illicit', and the provision of fertility treatment for single women or widows as 'not morally justified'.

The Vatican's attack comes only a month after the Italian Parliament gave final approval to a controversial bill governing assisted reproductive technologies, said to be the most restrictive in operation across the whole of Europe. The new Italian law limits the availability of fertility treatments to 'stable heterosexual couples who live together and are of childbearing age' and, among other restrictions, prohibits research using human embryos as well as embryo freezing, gamete donation, surrogacy and the provision of any fertility treatment to single women or same-sex couples.



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Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.

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Date Added: 22 May 2004   Date Updated: 12 September 2004
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