Government plans to permit further research on human embryos are due to be debated in the House of Commons on Friday, to the dismay of prolife campaigners and the head of Scotland's Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Thomas Winning.

Scientists are urging the government to extend the scope of research that can be carried out on embryos and even permit cloning in the hope of finding cures for a range of serious diseases. These include leukemia, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease.

"We need to grasp the opportunity now," said one of Britain's leading genetic researchers. "The technology gives us the potential to address some of the most severe diseases that we suffer from," Dr. Harry Griffin of the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh told Newsroom. "That potential would be difficult to realize if the research opportunities were limited by law." The Roslin Institute produced the first cloned sheep, Dolly, in 1996.

But other experts in the fields of medicine and the law are equally adamant in their opposition. A leading commentator in the United Kingdom and the United States warned delegates at a conference on cloning in London this week that the issue touched "the salvation or damnation" of mankind.

"These technologies could end up destroying those they are intended to serve," argued Professor Nigel M. de S. Cameron, executive chairman of London's Center for Bioethics and Public Policy, which hosted the conference. He cited the outbreak of mad cow disease and the marketing of the thalidomide drug in the 1970s that resulted in the birth of deformed babies as examples of the results of "technology and venture capitalism driving the agenda. Unless we proceed with caution as we progress up this experimental curve, disaster ...

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