Cardinal Warns Blair on Embryo Research; 'The Danger Is That We Sleepwalk into a Form of Eugenics'
Byline: GRAEME WILSON
ADVANCES in genetic science could see Britain sleepwalking into 'a form of eugenics', the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England has warned Tony Blair.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor issued his warning amid growing concern about the dramatic progress in embryo and genetic research.
And he called on the Prime Minister to set up a powerful bioethics watchdog to examine the moral implications of the most contentious developments.
His intervention comes amid growing fears that technology will soon allow doctors to genetically screen unborn babies to see if they will be prone to certain diseases.
In recent weeks there was outrage when it emerged that British scientists have created so-called 'virgin birth' embryos - which do not require sperm - by using cloning technology.
Researchers have also been allowed to create a human embryo with two genetic mothers.
In a powerful response to these developments, the Cardinal's official spokesman said last night: 'The danger is now that we sleepwalk into a form of eugenics.
People will wake up later and wonder "When was this ever discussed in Parliament?".' His comments on eugenics refer back to the sort of theories of race superiority and selective breeding which inspired the Holocaust.
Following discussions with other religions, the Roman Catholic Church is confident there is broad support for a bioethics committee from the Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks and Muslim leaders such as Dr Zaki Badawi, chairman of the Council of Mosques and Imams.
The alliance between the three religions - which together represent around 8million voters - follows their joint calls for further curbs on abortion during the General Election campaign this year.
Last night, the Church of England offered a cautious welcome to the idea, perhaps reflecting the fact that the Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, sits on the ethics committee of the current watchdog - the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.
A spokesman said: 'We believe there is every need for fully 'Dreadful memories of the Nazis' informed public debate and decisionmaking on these vital issues and would be interested to see the detail of any new proposals and how they might relate to existing bodies already in the field. …