Embryo Experiments

Cherishing Life, the Bishops’ 2004 document on the moral and spiritual well-being of the human person in society, offers clear definitions of subjects concerned with the dignity of life from conception to natural death.


In vitro fertilisation (IVF) raises issues about procreation and parenthood, but it also raises concerns about society’s attitudes to the lives of those embryonic human beings it creates. While in principle every embryo conceived in the laboratory could be transferred to its mother, in practice of the many conceived only a proportion are given the chance of life. Most are discarded or frozen, perhaps to be transferred later, perhaps only to be discarded or used in experiments. This is a great injustice. Even worse is the practice of conceiving human embryos for the sole purpose of scientific experimentation.

Cloning is the deliberate production of genetically identical offspring. Scientists have now succeeded in cloning some animals, the most famous being Dolly the sheep. However, in the case of Dolly, hundreds of embryos had to be cloned before a reasonable number of pregnancies could be achieved, and there were many miscarriages and lambs born with abnormalities before one healthy lamb was born. Even that one apparently healthy lamb, Dolly, subsequently developed premature arthritis. If something similar was attempted in human beings the most likely results would be miscarriage, stillbirth and children born with severe disabilities. The human cost would be enormous and for no good reason. Even if it became safe, the surviving cloned babies would be deprived of a genetic mother and father and would live in the shadow of their genetic original. They would be objects of manipulation that had been produced to a pre-existent specification and would not have been received as a gift as children deserve to be. This would be invidious and unjust.