United Nations Debate on Cloning: Letter from the CCCB President Bishop Jacques Berthelet, C.S.V., to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Bill Graham

Tuesday, October 14 2003
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This letter was sent on September 24, 2003

The Honourable Bill Graham, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Lester B. Pearson Building
Tower A, 10th Floor
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A OG2

Re: 58th General Assembly of the United Nations

Dear Mr. Graham:

We understand that the debate on human cloning will resume this fall at the 58th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York. It is our understanding that the discussion will focus on the scope of the mandate of the working group responsible for preparing an international convention on the prohibition of human cloning and whether to prepare a draft that prohibits only what is called “reproductive cloning” or one that also prohibits “therapeutic cloning”.

Given Canada’s active support in the work of the United Nations, and given the federal government’s involvement over the last ten years in proposals for legislation on the reproductive and genetic technologies, we assume that Canada will be represented at these discussions.

The difference between “reproductive” cloning and “research” or “therapeutic” cloning consists only in the objective of the procedure; cloning of human beings always involves the production of an embryo. As the noted bioethicist, Dr. Leon R. Kass, stated in an article in The New York Times on 24 January 2003: “All human cloning begins with the same act: the production of a cloned human embryo. Cloning to produce children would involve the implantation of such embryos in a woman’s body and their development to birth; cloning for biomedical research, in contrast, involves the dissection of these embryos to obtain stem cells….

Cloning for research purposes involves the creation of embryos for the purpose of experimentation and their ultimate destruction for stem cells. Further, if “reproductive cloning” is prohibited, then embryos cloned for research purposes would be required to be destroyed. All forms of human cloning should be prohibited because they offend the dignity and integrity of human life and procreation.

Throughout the most recent legislative process in Canada, beginning with the draft legislation that was proposed in May 2001, the federal government has stated its intention to prohibit all forms of cloning. The Minister of Health, the Honourable A. Anne McLellan, in speaking to Bill C-13 (An Act Respecting Assisted Human Reproduction), at second reading said that it “outlaws the creation of human clones whether for the purposes of reproduction or research”. On behalf of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, I urge you to continue this approach at the meetings in New York and to work for a comprehensive international ban on all forms and techniques of cloning human beings.

Sincerely,

Most Reverend Jacques Berthelet, C.S.V.
Bishop of Saint-Jean-Longueuil
President
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops


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