Vivisection of the embryo
The Biomedicine Agency announced on 20 June 2006 having delivered the first authorisations for research on embryo to six French teams working in public structures. Among the accepted teams, five come from INSERM and Pasteur Institute and will work on imported embryonic stem cell lines. For the first time in France, the sixth team will intend to create stem cell lines from human embryos conceived in the country. This team is co-directed by Marc Peschanski (Istem, Evry) and Stéphane Viville (Strasbourg CHU). Marc Peschanski, financed by Telethon funds (see Gènéthique No 71), actively militated to obtain authorisation for research on embryo and today asks for cloning.
Beyond the bioethics law
The law of 6 August 2004 only foresees an authorisation for research on embryo by derogation and for a five-year period, only “when they are susceptible to allow major therapeutic advances and provided that they cannot be followed by an alternative method of comparable effectiveness, in the current state of scientific knowledge” (art. L.2151-5). Yet, the decree of 6 February 2006 passed silence over the legislative prohibition of research on embryo authorised “by derogation” and erases the conditions established by the law on this research (see Gènéthique n°74). Today, the examination of the files of the six teams shows that none of them undertake these researches with therapeutic purposes but all for fundamental and pharmacological purposes.
The use of human embryo cells is by no means a scientific necessity in that researchers are aware of umbilical and adult stem cells present promising characteristics; and the sample in adult do not pose ethical issues because it does not endanger its life. Consequently, the use embryonic stem cells is only motivated by economical interest. The same researches could be carried out on animal embryo but they are more expensive because breeding has to be maintained whereas human embryos without “parental project” are free.
We can worry about the praetorian policy of the Biomedicine Agency which sacrifices human being interests for economical interests and is content with a pseudo ethical frame which is based on secondary points. “What kind of ethics are we talking about when the only ethics laid down involve wearing regulation shoes and masks to sacrifice human beings correctly?” questioned J-M Le Méné, president of Jérôme Lejeune Foundation.
In a Statement of 29 June 2006, the president of the French Bishops’ Conference, denounced this transgression: « …so the process of reducing the human being to a resource carries on, which is a serious ethical violation. We have to say again that human embryo can be considered as a mere laboratory material (…) Any embryo is already a human being. Then it is not an object available for man. It is not possible to decide a limit beyond which an embryo is a human being and below which it is not. Nobody has the power to fix humanity limits of a singular existence… »