German scientists criticize stem cell ruling
Posted on December 14, 2011
As you might recall, European Court of Justice on October 18 banned the patenting of inventions involving human embryonic stem cells and characterized research and other procedures using new or previously derived human embryonic stem cells as “immoral.” The court’s ruling cannot be appealed and applies to all 27 member states of the European Union.
Now, nearly two months later, the prominent Alliance of German Scientific Organizations has publicly slammed the court for stepping beyond its bounds of protecting intellectual property.
“The European Court of Justice is neither the proper place to decide on patent rights nor to impose a general moral order on the whole of Europe,” the alliance said in its statement.
Its statement, released on 7 December, says that the words of the European Court of Justice ruling could “discredit” human embryonic stem-cell research in general, and “morally discredit” researchers. It demands that the sentiments expressed in the court’s judgement not influence the right of German organizations to fund human ES cell research in Germany, which it says is carried out to the highest ethical standards.
Research on human ES cells is already restricted in Germany. Scientists there are not permitted to create their own cell lines, and they can only use imported cell lines that were created before 1 May 2007. Laws in the United Kindgdom and Sweden, for example, are much more liberal, and allow scientists in those countries to create their own lines under strict control. Other countries, such as Ireland, ban research on human ES cells entirely.
The alliance’s statement says that, because there is no consensus within Europe on the morality of using human ES cells, decisions about how to regulate them should remain with national governments. That reasoning was recently applied by the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled on 3 November that Austria could make its own decision on allowing human egg donation for reproductive purposes without European-level guidance.