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Vatican keeps up attack on Nobel committee over IVF

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican kept up its attack on the Nobel committee on Tuesday for giving the medicine prize to in-vitro fertilization pioneer Robert Edwards, saying he had led to a culture where embryos are seen as commodities.

The world's first "test-tube baby" Britain's Louise Brown, faces the media holding 13-week-old twins Antonia and Henry Veary, as Professor Robert Edwards (L) looks on, during 25th anniversary celebrations of the revolutionary In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) fertility treatment at Bourne Hall in Cambridgeshire in this July 26, 2003 file photograph. British physiologist Edwards, whose work led to the first "test-tube baby", won the 2010 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology, the prize-awarding institute said on October 4, 2010. Sweden's Karolinska Institute lauded Edwards, 85, for bringing joy to infertile people all over the world. Picture taken July 26, 2003. REUTERS/Lee Besford/Files

For the second straight day, it gave the thumbs down to the choice of Edwards, whose success in fertilizing a human egg outside of the womb led to “test tube babies” and innovations such as embryonic stem cell research and surrogate motherhood.

The Vatican ratcheted up its negative opinion as several leading Italian newspapers criticized it for its attack on Edwards.

A statement by the Vatican-based International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations (FIAMC), said the group was “dismayed” at the choice.

“Although IVF has brought happiness to the many couples who have conceived through this process, it has done so at enormous cost,” the federation said in a statement issued on Vatican letter head.

“Many millions of embryos have been created and discarded during the IVF process,” it said, adding that embryos were being used as “animals destined for destruction.”

“This use has led to a culture where they are regarded as commodities, rather than the precious human individuals which they are.”


A Vatican official’s initial negative reaction on Monday to the medicine prize being given to Edwards as “completely misplaced” was splashed on front pages of Tuesday’s Italian newspapers, with some editorials harshly critical of its stance.

“The devil is not behind Robert Edwards, as the Church seems to suspect, but a passion for science and an attempt to satisfy the desire that women have for maternity,” La Repubblica said in an editorial.

“Edwards helped -- not damaged -- millions of people,” said an editorial in the Corriere della Sera while the leftist L’Unita sarcastically ran a headline reading “The Heretic” under a picture of Edwards with two infants born through IVF.

Tuesday’s statement by the Catholic medical federation said that “as Catholic doctors we recognize the pain that infertility brings to a couple” but that research had to be carried “within an ethical framework.”

While the Catholic Church teaches that life begins at the moment of conception, more liberal Christians view the beginning of life less strictly and have fewer qualms about embryo manipulation.

Additional reporting by Tom Heneghan in Paris, editing by Matthew Jones