October 7, 2010

Russian Church: IVF Pioneer Should Not Have Won Nobel Prize

October 6, 2010

The Russian Orthodox Church has condemned the decision to award British embryologist Robert Edwards, the man who came up with the fertility treatment IVF, the Nobel Prize for medicine.

"The Church considers all these IVF methods involving the stockpiling and further destruction of so-called excessive 'embryos' as morally unacceptable," Archpriest Nikolay Balashov, spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, told Interfax-Religion.

The Church's position is based on the belief that "an embryo is a future human being and not just an accumulation of cells or a part of a mother's body," and the Church "defends the dignity of human life from the moment of its conception until the natural demise of a human," the priest said.

IVF often involves the use of the so-called donor genetic material, which "creates moral problems for the person born as a result of such procedure," he said.

"Theoretically, the child can have two fathers, a biological one and the one who raised him, and two mothers, a biological one and the one who bore him during the pregnancy," the spokesman said.

As in the case of the so-called "surrogate motherhood," the use of such methods could "question the identity of the human being, his self-understanding," he said.

"Based on these considerations, the Russian Orthodox Church finds itself unable to justify the use of the technologies questioning the uniqueness of a human personality and the perception of a human life as God's gift," he said.

Childless couples suffering from the inability to produce offspring should be recalled that "childlessness can also be in certain cases a special vocation from God, with scores of children who would be happy to find a caring family queuing up at Russian children's institutions for adoption," the priest said.

Similar condemnation of the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Edwards was voiced earlier by the Catholic Church.

The prize committee said his achievement had made it possible to treat infertility. Edwards began his research at Cambridge University in the late 1950s. He worked alongside physician Patrick Steptoe to create the IVF treatment, with the first "test tube baby" born in 1978.