Pope Benedict has hit out against destructive experiments on human embryos and called for more work to be done in the ethical field of adult stem cells.
The comments come in a strongly worded Vatican document on reproductive science – the first for 20 years – personally approved by the Pope.
The report says the morning-after pill and other measures which can act to destroy an embryo by preventing it from implanting in a womb are “gravely immoral”.
It also condemns the creation of ‘designer babies’ and embryos that are part animal, part human. The creation of animal-human embryos for research was recently made lawful in Britain.
The Vatican document confirms the Roman Catholic Church’s position that all human life deserves respect “from the very first stages of its existence and can never be reduced merely to a group of cells”.
The report says that stem cell research should be encouraged if tissues are obtained from adults, umbilical cord blood or foetuses that have died naturally.
There have been many reports recently highlighting medical breakthroughs using adult stem cells.
Most recently, in November, British scientists successfully used adult stem cells to create a replacement windpipe for a mother-of-two.
The breakthrough came just weeks after Parliament passed new legislation liberalising embryo research, despite hearing evidence that time and funding would be better spent on work using adult stem cells.