A Vatican official has voiced anger over the decision to award the Nobel Prize for Medicine to the pioneer of IVF.
Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said it was “out of order” to award the prize to Professor Robert Edwards, who produced the first ‘test tube baby’ in 1978.
“Without Edwards, there would be no market for human eggs; without Edwards there would not be freezers full of embryos waiting to be transferred to a uterus, or, more likely, used for research or left to die, abandoned and forgotten about by all,” he said.
Professor Edwards was selected by a panel in Sweden who said his work had brought “joy” to infertile people the world over.
News of the award was welcomed by Dr Luca Gianaroli, chairman of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, which Professor Edwards founded.
She said: "This is a proud day for ESHRE, and just reward for Bob whose pioneering work, often in the face of huge opposition, has brought fulfilment to so many families."
In vitro fertilisation involves fertilising an egg outside the body and then planting it in a woman’s womb to grow and develop. Just under a third of IVF treatments on women under the age of 35 in Britain result in a live birth.
The work by Professor Edwards and the late gynaecologist Patrick Steptoe led to the birth of the world’s first test tube baby, Louise Brown, in 1978.
The procedure is opposed by the Catholic Church, which argues that the creation of life is a marriage act that should not be subject to the involvement of a third party.
Anthony Ozimic, spokesman for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said the organisation was opposed to the procedure because of the number of human embryos that end up being discarded or used in scientific experiments, as well as the possibility that IVF gives of destroying embryos that show signs of disability.
He said: "Giving Professor Edwards a prize for promoting the abuse of human embryos by IVF is an affront to mankind, and especially to disabled people.”
Andrew Fergusson, a spokesman for the Christian Medical Fellowship, added: "Our 4,000 UK doctor members all recognise the pain of infertility, but there would be a range of views about the artificial reproductive technologies pioneered by Dr Robert Edwards.
"In most cases where infertile couples are treated, embryos are created but never implanted, and this consequent huge loss of life gets lost sight of in the excitement of the science and the understandable longing for a child.
"Science and medicine must always operate within ethical boundaries, and such fertility treatment remains controversial."
Vatican official objects to IVF scientist’s Nobel Prize win
Published 05 October 2010