The organisation first took a decision in 1999 to implement a five-year voluntary moratorium on reproductive cloning when it became clear that technical advances arising from cloning animals could theoretically result in an attempt to clone a human.
In January 2003 ESHRE's Executive Committee decided to continue its moratorium, and strongly dissociated the organisation from any attempts at human reproductive cloning. In the light of data from animal cloning, the society believes that it is totally irresponsible, as well as unethical, to start human reproductive cloning.
The co-ordinator of the society's ethical committee, Dr Françoise Shenfield, said: "There are major practical problems, not least of which is the high chance of abnormal babies, even if abnormalities are not apparent at birth.
"Just as important, there are ethical objections. The deliberate generation of clones could infringe upon the dignity and integrity of human individuals by increasing genetic determinism and restricting autonomy and individuality at both a psychological and societal level."
Professor Hans Evers, current chairman of ESHRE (until 1 July 2003) said that he was also concerned at the damaging effect that publicity sought by those attempting reproductive cloning was having on the whole field of reproductive research. "Many more infertile couples can now achieve a pregnancy. This is due to clinicians and scientists working quietly away to understand the reasons for infertility and to improve existing treatments. This work may not hit the headlines but is a sign of commitment and sincere concern for the fate of infertile people."
He said it was also important to ensure that the whole field of stem cell research and therapeutic cloning was not damaged by being caught up in the outcry over reproductive cloning. "ESHRE supports cloning for therapeutic purposes. It is vital if we are to develop potential new treatments for serious human diseases."
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