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Home arrow In Brief arrow Head of BioEthics InterGroup, MEP Peter Liese : "Embryonic stem cell research reaching its END" !?

Head of BioEthics InterGroup, MEP Peter Liese : "Embryonic stem cell research reaching its END" !?

Written by ACM
Thursday, 17 November 2011

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"Pioneers" of embryonic stem cell research halt clinical trials => Embryonic stem cell research has reached its end, says Peter Liese : Consequences for EU research policy = Focus should be laid on adult stem cell research" 


The US-company Geron has announced to halt its clinical trials with embryonic stem cells. The company has invested millions of dollars over the past years in this kind of research and started the first trial with human embryonic stem cells one year ago. They now announced to stop it and concentrate on their core business, which is cancer research. The announcement of the clinical trial last year had been celebrated as a big breakthrough in science, and the company has invested a lot to convince the US-authority FDA  to approve the trial. The official justification for the halt is that the company lacks money, but independent observers from all over the world see the decision as a prove for the thesis that embryonic stem cells are not the breakthrough- technology that is seemed to be."

- "After ten years of hype, the supporters of embryonic stem cell research finally have to face reality. If even the "pioneers" of embryonic stem cell research cannot generate funds for their trials, it is clear that the belief in this kind of research is gone", said Peter Liese, medical doctor and spokesman on health of the biggest political group in the European Parliament (EPP- Christian Democrats).

- "The latest development demands also consequences for the EU research policy. The halt of the clinical trial with embryonic stem cells has clearly shown that research on embryonic stem cells does not bring added value for the patients. We should therefore not finance it with European public money. Our effort should concentrate on ethically unchallenging alternatives like adult stem cells and stem cells from the umbilical cord. These alternatives have been successfully used in hundreds of clinical trials for more than 70 diseases".

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+ Also the decision of the European Court of Justice in October demands a policy change in Europe. The Court has decided that human embryonic stem cells can not be patented in Europe, and in the justification, the Court referred to human dignity. "If a technology cannot be patented in Europe, it makes no sense to support it with European money. The Commission in its research programs even demands scientists to patent their innovations. It is not useful to do research in Europe and leave the commercial exploitation to other parts of the world", said Liese.

Current drafts of the new Commission research and innovation program Horizon 2020 however indicate a different direction. The Commission obviously intents to finance not only research with human embryonic stem cells but also the derivation of the stem cells with includes the destruction of the embryo. Under the current 7th Research Framework Program research which implies the destruction of human embryos is not funded.

- "I'm confident that the new developments, including the Court case and the announcement of Geron, will convince the European Commission that the future lies in the alternatives and we should not waste European tax payer's money for a technology that is very much disputed, prohibited in some Member States and obviously not successful", Liese said.  

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They voted to "freeze" UK Government's draft to put People in jail for 42 Days on "anti-terrorist" suspicion without charge, or they abstained. Don't they look suspect ?
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CoE's debate on UK controversy stirs PanEuropean check of anti-terror suspects' imprisonment

Former Leftists of the Sixties would boil in hot water if they heard PACE's debate on the controversial 42 days detention without charge, currently drafted by the British Government :

A "Socialist" Government, a Socialist PACE Rapporteur and a Socialist Chair of PACE's Legal Committee, opposed a .. "Conservative" amendment (supported by .. Liberals, Democrats, etc), to freeze the measure, in order to protect Citizens' Freedom, by "waiting" until CoE's Venice Committee checks its conformity with Human Rights' principles.

"Left"'s support to Conservative-Lib.Dem's criticism, wasn't enough to obtain a majority, nor to make things as they were back in the good old days, when "Left" and "Right" had a clear meaning, as "liberty" and "restrictions"...

Conservatives and most Democrats were joined by the Left in voting for the "freeze", as well as Liberal Paul Rowen, while Socialist MEP Ivan Popescu, an experienced MEP from Ukraine (PACE Member since 1996-2008) abstained. But most Socialists, added to a few Liberals and EPP's Right, voted against.

Fortunately, someone inside PACE had the wise idea to shorten the Debate for less than 1 Hour, and put it on the Agenda only at the end of an exceptionally busy day, towards the end of the Evening, when most MEPs had already gone to taste wins and foods at various Receptions all around Strasbourg's "European" area : As a result, not even 42 MEPs weren't present..

Socialist Lord Tomlinson accused the leaders of the PanEuropean Assembly, in its highest body : the "Bureau", to "lack wisdom" by deciding to hold a Debate on an issue that neither the Socialist Chair of the Legal Committee, nor its Socialist "reluctant Rapporteur", did "not want to do", ...

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Finally, everybody (critics and supporters alike) was happy to agree, in substance, that the controversial measure "may" gravely violate Human Rights, and therefore, PACE asked Legal Experts of Venice Commission to check UK Government''s plans.

But this might take more than .. 42 Days to do, since PACE's Rapporteur asked the Experts to enlarge their study in a PanEuropean comparison of all that is happening on "anti-terrorism" legislation in 47 CoE Member Countries, including Russia, Turkey and Azerbaidjan..

Bad lack : "The existing 28 days’ detention without charge in the UK is, in comparison with other CoE member countries, one of the most extreme : In Turkey, the period is 7,5 days, in France 6 days, in Russia 5 days, and in .. the U.S. and Canada just 2 and 1 days respectively", denounced Democrat MEP Ms WOLDSETH from Norway..

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"Numerous respected human rights organisations, including Liberty and Human Rights Watch, have expressed serious concern" "The proposed legislation ...could easily lead to extensive abuses. ...Detention for 42 days means six weeks in which one is taken away from one’s family, friends, home and livelihood only to be let off without being charged. That will destroy lives and isolate communities", she added.

- "3 years ago, the UK Government sought to increase the period of pre-charge detention from 14 days to 90 days. Not long before that, it had been only 7 days. There was a vigorous debate ...and a ...compromise was reached of 28 days. We have to ask whether there are proper safeguards in place to extend the period to 42 days. I suggest that there are fatal flaws", reminded British Conservative Clappison.

- "What sort of society holds someone in detention for 42 days and does not have to tell the person who is in prison why they are there, or explain the suspicions that arose and led to their detention? What sort of society believes that that is the way to treat its citizens? That is an appalling injustice, ...A 42-day detention period will not make the UK safer. Instead, it will be the first step to giving in to terrorists; it is saying that we are prepared to sacrifice our democratic rights and the principles for which we have stood for centuries", criticized British Liberal Michael Hanckock

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"Comments made ...by Norwegian delegates are unfortunate", replied British Socialist MEP Ms.Curtis-Thomas, accusing them to "besmirch the reputation of our police force, which is one of the Best in the World", as she said, believing that "there are significant safeguards ...to ensure that individuals are not subjected to unlawful detention"

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PACE "has serious doubts whether ...the draft legislation are in conformity with the ...case-law of the European Court of Human Rights. A lack of ..safeguards may lead to arbitrariness, resulting in breaches of ... liberty and ...right to a fair trial". PACE "is particularly concerned that: ..the judge ..may not be in a position to examine whether there exist reasonable grounds for suspecting that the arrested person has committed an offence;"; that "... representation by a lawyer may be inappropriately restricted or delayed;" that "information on the grounds for suspicion of a person ...may be unduly withheld.. ;" that this "may give rise to arrests without the intention to charge;", and; in general, that "prolonged detention without proper information on the grounds for arrest may constitute inhuman treatment", says Klaus De Vries' Report, adopted with 29 votes against zero.

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Records don't say if it took him 42 Days to draft his Report, but, at least, he knew why...

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