US Bishops object to scientists’ human-animal hybrid research proposal

The Catholic Bishops of the US have voiced objections to proposals to allow scientists to commence research involving human-animal hybrids.

In a message submitted to the National Institutes of Health, a division of the Department of Health, the prelates sounded a warning over the ethical arguments surrounding “beings who do not fully belong to either the human race or the host animal species”.

Listing ways in which experimentation involving human-animal hybrids violates ethical principles, not least with the destruction of human embryos, the bishops added that such research “contemplates producing entities with partly or wholly human brains (without any additional level of scrutiny in the case of rodents); and it allows for producing living entities who have human gametes”.

“The dignity and inviolability of human life at every stage of development is a foundational principle of any truly civilised society. The core ethical norms protecting human research subjects, affirmed in the Nuremberg Code and many subsequent documents, reflect this principle. The right not to be subjected to harmful experimentation without one’s express and informed consent is an innate human right.”

The bishops added: “If one cannot tell to what extent, if any, [a] resulting organism may have human status or characteristics, it will be impossible to determine what one’s moral obligations may be regarding that organism. We submit that producing new organisms, regarding whom our fundamental moral and legal obligations are inevitably confused and even contradictory, is itself immoral.”