Some religious groups against stem cell research

Some religious groups in Singapore have spoken up against embryonic stem cell research.

The issue looks likely to gain momentum now that scientists in America have said the first human cloned embryo can be produced in two months.

US President George Bush has restricted federal funding for its research, and scientists remain divided over its ethics.

In Singapore, a prayer session will be held on August 24, the culmination of an appeal by the Catholic Medical Guild to pray against what it feels is the destruction of human beings for science.

Dr John Hui, President of the Catholic Medical Guild, said: "Every human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception.

"No objective, no matter how good or noble it may appear to be, can justify the experimentation on and destruction of the human embryo."

When it comes to such research, it seems the ethical debate is where life actually begins.

In opposing the use of embryos, the Taoist Mission has said it believes in preserving life.

The Inter-Religious Organisation says it does not support cloning, which may involve destroying cloned embryos for stem cells.

Russi Ghadiali, Honorary President of Inter-Religious Organisation, said: "There is nothing in the Scriptures of any religion that one could find for supporting or not supporting the cloning. But one thing is certain, that it is not a natural thing."

But it will be some time before this area of research will be regulated in Singapore.

While the Singapore Medical Council has agreed there is scope for abuse, it is waiting for the Bio-Ethics Advisory Committee's decision before drawing up ethical guidelines for doctors.

Dr Lee Suan Yew, President of the Singapore Medical Council, said: "You cannot form policies now when we're having a cascade of information. You must pause, get as much information as possible, weigh the pros and cons, and then we'll set up the ethical standards."

The Advisory Committee will present its views to the Life Sciences Ministerial Committee when it has come to a consensus.