By Meg Jalsevac

SYDNEY, Australia, October 20, 2006 ( – Bishop Anthony Fisher of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia told the Australian parliament today that Australian Catholic hospitals would not use treatments for their patients that had been developed through embryonic stem cells.Â

Embryonic stem cells are cells extracted from living human embryos. The extraction of the cells causes the embryo to die.

The Catholic Church maintains that embryonic stem cell research is morally evil because it necessitates the death of the embryo, a living person in the very earliest stage of development. In the introduction to Donum Vitae, an official Instruction written in 1987 from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it says “From the moment of conception, the life of every human being is to be respected in an absolute way…”

Bishop Fisher explained the Church’s position, “I think if in fact what the cures involved was using parts taken from very early human beings that had been killed to get those cells, and then lines grown from them for that purpose, we’d have to say that you couldn’t morally cooperate in that activity.”

Catholic health organizations maintain over 8,600 beds in small and large hospitals throughout Australia including St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney and Melbourne and the Mater Hospitals in Brisbane.Â

Dr. Sally Cockburn, a GP and radio commentator in Melbourne, was critical of the Church’s policy.“I really would question whether this is putting the patient first,” she said. Dr. Cockburn also wondered if the Catholic hospitals would be allowed to refuse certain treatments for their patients if the hospitals were receiving government funding.

Australia currently has a ban on human cloning so no new embryos may be made for research purposes. However, scientists may use stem cells from spare IVF embryos.

In December of 2005, former Federal Court judge John Lockhart recommended that the current regulations be relaxed so that ‘therapeutic cloning’ could be legalized and a stem cell bank established for research purposes. A conscience vote on the matter is scheduled in the Federal Parliament for later this year.Â

Scientists across the world have worked up a great hype about the potential benefits of using embryonic stem cells. However, a Nov. 29 Canadian Catholic News item reported bioethics expert Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk stating that not a single disease has been cured yet from embryonic stem cell research. Conversely, this distinguished director of the National Bioethics Centre in Philadelphia noted nearly 100 different diseases have already been cured using adult stem cells taken from the umbilical cord, hip or nasal cavity.

The Catholic Church encourages and supports research in adult stem cell therapy since adult stem cells are harvested in such a way as to not cause harm to the donor.

Read the entire text of Donum Vitae:

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Read Related LifeSite Coverage on Embryonic Stem Cell Treatment:

UK Researcher: Cord Blood Real Potential for Cures, Not Embryonic Stem Cells – Part I
  UK Researcher: Embryonic Stem Cells Have Never Been Used to Treat Anyone and no Plans Exist to do so – Part II
  Why Embryonic Stem Cell Research? It’s About Human Engineering, Not Ending Disease