L’Independent di ieri riporta alcune dichiarazioni del fisico Stephen Hawking a proposito dei compromessi adottati dall’Unione Europea in materia di ricerca sulle cellule staminali embrionali (Steve Connor e Stephen Castle, «Hawking criticises EU states trying to ban stem cell research», 24 luglio 2006).
Stephen Hawking, the world’s best-known living scientist, has attacked “reactionary” forces in Europe and America which are trying to ban research into stem cells from human embryos.
Professor Hawking, who suffers from motor neurone disease, has criticised President George Bush and European governments who want to stop the funding of research with embryonic stem cells, which promises to revolutionise the treatment of many incurable conditions.
His attack comes on the day that an attempt will be made in Brussels to prevent any money from the European Union’s €54bn (£37bn) science budget being spent over the next seven years on research into human embryonic stem cells.
Germany is leading an attempt to change the way the EU science budget can be spent by individual member states. The plan to block stem-cell research has been bolstered by Mr Bush’s use of a veto last week which prevents US federal funds being spent on research into embryonic stem cells. “I strongly oppose the move to ban stem-cell research funding from the European Union,” said Professor Hawking, who holds the chair in mathematics at Cambridge University that was once held by Sir Isaac Newton in 1663.
“Europe should not follow the reactionary lead of President Bush, who recently vetoed a bill passed by Congress and supported by a majority of the American people that would have allowed federal funding for stem cell research,” he said in a statement to The Independent. “Stem cell research is the key to developing cures for degenerative conditions like Parkinson’s and motor neurone disease from which I and many others suffer,” he said.
Stem cells are sometimes described as “mother cells” because they can give rise to any one of the many dozens of specialised cells and tissues of the body. Scientists hope to use stem cells from spare IVF embryos to grow specialised cells that can be transplanted into the body as a tissue-repair kit for the vital organs.
President Bush and some religious authorities, notably the Catholic Church, argue that the microscopic, four-day-old embryos from which stem cells are derived are potential human lives. They believe it is immoral to take stem cells from any human embryo even for the purpose of saving lives because the process involves the destruction of embryos.
But Professor Hawking dismissed these objections, saying that banning stem cells from human embryos is equivalent to opposing the use of donated organs from dead people.
“The fact that the cells may come from embryos is not an objection because the embryos are going to die anyway,” he said. “It is morally equivalent to taking a heart transplant from a victim of a car accident.”