Dutch Christian Democrats plea for liberalisation embryo research


Western Europe


A scientist uses a microscope at a laboratory. Photo AFP, Luis Acosta

The Dutch Christian Democrats are swifting to defend embryo research in the case of inherited genetic disease. "Where suffering can be solved, we have a moral obligation to do so."

The scientific institute of the governing Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) released a report on the research of embryos on Monday. In it, the Christian Democratic scientists argue that growing stem cells for research, the editing of the embryo and the choice of gender should become possible. The scientists also report on the growing of human organs in animals. In the study, ethical, theological and practical challenges were discussed.

The research with stem cells should show whether it is possible to repair genetic 'errors'. This could prevent serious diseases, such as cystic fibrosis or Huntington's disease, from being passed on to children.

André Poortman, the writer of the report, says to have based his research on the Christian tradition but also on the Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist traditions. He did this because, although these traditions basically have the same values, they do have different views. "The clearest difference is between Catholics and Protestants. The Roman Catholic Church is against IVF. Within Protestantism, the views on this are completely different", Poortman says to Christian Dutch daily Nederlands Dagblad.

According to Poortman, life is not makeable. However, "as a human being, you have also been given qualities to work with within the context of creation and life. The purpose of research with very young stem cells is to prevent suffering. Where suffering can be resolved, we have a moral obligation to do so. Within the Christian tradition, there is always awe for suffering, but never glorifying it."


The timing of the report's publication is noteworthy. Suppose CDA MPs in the Lower House embrace the report. In that case, it will have major consequences for the medical-ethical relations in the government coalition.

The liberal governing parties VVD and D66 are now often diametrically opposed to their Christian coalition partners CDA and ChristenUnie. In the coalition agreement, medical-ethical themes are free issues: no agreements have been made beforehand. About the Embryo law, it has been agreed that coalition parties will not submit any proposals while the current cabinet is in power. However, preparing laws is allowed. The next elections in the Netherlands are planned for 2025.


Embryo research legislation has been the source of much controversy and varies by country. In the European Union, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, among others, prohibit or severely restrict the use of embryonic stem cells. Meanwhile, Sweden, Spain and Greece have created a legal basis to support this research. According to stem cell researchers00225-2?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS1934590909002252%3Fshowall%3Dtrue), Spain is one of the leaders in stem cell research and currently has one of the most liberal laws worldwide with respect to human embryonic stem cell research.



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