EU Bans Patents on Embryonic Stem Cells

by The Center for Bioethics and Culture on October 18, 2011

By Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC

Good. As anticipated, the EU’s top court has banned patents on embryonic stem cells as EU law prohibits patenting products that came from destroying embryos. From the France International News story:

Europe’s top court on Tuesday banned researchers from patenting any process to extract stem cells when it leads to the destruction of a human embryo. In a ruling that could affect medical research, the EU Court of Justice court said the use of human embryos “for therapeutic or diagnostic purposes which are applied to the human embryo and are useful to it is patentable.” “But their use for purposes of scientific research is not patentable,” the court ruled.

The EU judges were asked by the German Federal Court of Justice to provide an interpretation of a human embryo following an appeal from a German scientist, whose patent on a method to create nerve cells from human embryonic stem cells was ruled invalid. The scientist, Oliver Bruestle, said there were already clinical applications for his invention to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease. But the Luxembourg-based court said that “a process which involves removal of a stem cell from a human embryo at the blastocyst stage, entailing the destruction of that embryo, cannot be patented.” Blastocyst is a later stage of embryonic development, almost five days after fertilisation.

Unlike American courts ruling about federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, the EU court followed the law as written. Good on them. And let us note, it is unlikely that the EU is merely imposing religion–as we so often hear about ESCR opponents here in the USA.

And notice the accuracy in reporting. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard scientists–and the American media (most guilty, the KC Star)–say that a blastocyst isn’t an embryo. When scientists lie, science dies.

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