AUSTRALIA, Aug. 9 ( – The ethics of human embryonic stem cell research (also known as therapeutic cloning) was a topic of debate yesterday at the 68th annual summer meeting of the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs, Canada’s oldest public policy forum. Scientists and ethicists want a public debate on the ethics of using cells from cloned human embryos to produce new tissues and organs, reports the National Post today. Pro-lifers oppose the process because taking stem cells from an embryo leads to its death the killing of a human being.

Canada’s renowned ethicist, Margaret Somerville, addressed the audience of 200 at the Couchiching meeting. She is the founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law. She told her audience that “[Therapeutic cloning] offers huge benefits,” but said that, nevertheless, Canadians have to answer the question: “Is it inherently wrong to do it?”

Britain has banned therapeutic cloning, and in the United States institutions receiving federal funding are prohibited from undertaking human embryo research. Canadian law does not forbid the practice and it is unknown at this point whether or not the reproductive technologies bill slated for introduction in the fall by the federal government will address the issue. Dr. Ronald Worton, CEO and scientific director of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, was noted by NP as a supporter of human stem cell research if, he said, it could be done with “respect for human dignity”, whatever that may mean.