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8-Humans: Singapore to allow stem cell research but to prohibit cloning

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TITLE:  Singapore to allow stem cell research; cloning prohibited
SOURCE: Agence France-Presse, sent by Human Genetics Alert, UK
DATE:   November 20, 2001

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Singapore to allow stem cell research; cloning prohibited
Tentative nod

SINGAPORE -- The use of embryonic stem cells received a tentative nod in 
Singapore on Saturday after a multisectoral advisory committee agreed to 
the use of 14-day old embryos for research. However, the Bioethics Advisory 
Committee (BAC) tasked to address the ethical, legal and social issues 
arising from biomedical research said human cloning must be prohibited. "We 
feel perhaps taking embryos at an early stage when the full personhood is 
far from being realized yet... (provides) an opportunity to help cure 
patients, alleviate their suffering and even prolong their life," said BAC 
chairman Lim Pin.

Richard Magnus, a senior district judge who heads the BAC's human stem cell 
research subcommittee, said: "We are just confining our recommendation with 
regard to early embryos not more than 14 days old. That's as far as the BAC 
is prepared to recommend at this point in time." Scientists in Singapore, a 
prosperous Southeast Asian city-state, are already involved in stem-cell 
research despite the absence of ethical, legal and social guidelines.

The republic is poised to become an important center for the fledging 
science by the end of the year when one of the world's top three stem-cell 
suppliers, ES Cell International, sets up shop here. This has prompted the 
government to set up the BAC last year to draw up guidelines after the use 
of human embryos in research has generated intense controversy worldwide 
because of the ethical and moral questions involved.

Embryonic stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can evolve into blood, 
liver, muscle and other organs. Researchers hope they can one day be used 
to repair damaged organs or cure diseases such as Parkinson's, diabetes and 

In a media briefing to announce their tentative position, the BAC drew the 
line, saying it was against the cloning of humans as its "possible benefit 
is greatly overweighed by ethical concerns and safety issues." Lim said 
however that they would "entertain the possibility of keeping the embryo 
perhaps for research purposes" but this would be considered only as a "last 
resort." Last week, the BAC released a consultation paper to 38 religious, 
medical and other interest groups ahead of dialogues sessions in December.


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