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Voters favour stem-cell research

Stem cell research is only being carried out in one Swiss laboratory for the time being Keystone Archive

Voters look set to give the go-ahead to stem-cell research in Switzerland, despite opposition from right-to-life groups and some sections of the Left.

The latest opinion poll shows voters believe it would offer hope for incurable diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

The survey, the first ahead of a nationwide vote on November 28, was conducted by the GfS Bern polling and research institute, on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation.

The poll results show that 60 per cent of voters are in favour of stem-cell legislation that would allow the use of surplus embryos for research purposes under strict conditions.

Only a quarter of those surveyed came out against the law, while around 15 per cent of voters have yet to make up their minds.

Safeguards promised

The main reason given for a “yes” vote was the hope of developing new therapies for incurable diseases. It was also felt that a “no” at the ballot box would handicap Swiss researchers.

Around two-thirds of men polled were in favour of the stem-cell law; just over 50 per cent of women thought the same way.

French- and Italian-speakers are also more likely to support the proposal than German-speaking citizens.

The legislation would bring Switzerland into line with countries such as France, Denmark and Finland.

The government has promised that safeguards would be put in place to prevent abuses and that human cloning would remain outlawed. Embryos up to seven days old could only be used with the permission of parents.

Anti-abortion groups collected 90,000 signatures to force next month’s vote.

All four of Switzerland’s main political parties, including the centre-right Christian Democrats, are in favour of research on stem cells from surplus human embryos. But some sections of the centre-left Social Democrats and the Greens are against it.

Financial reform

The Swiss are also voting on reform of how the federal authorities and the cantons share responsibilities, and the terms under which poorer cantons are subsidised by richer ones.

Just over half of those polled said they supported the changes, with 13 per cent against. One-third of voters are still undecided four weeks before going to the ballot box.

Analysts say the high number of undecided voters may be due to two factors: either people are not sufficiently concerned, or they are simply so overwhelmed by the complexity of the proposals that they cannot make up their minds.

Of the four main political parties, only the Social Democrats are opposed to the reforms. They say the handing over of responsibility for disabled people from the federal authorities to the cantons is wrong.

The Left says this will lead to some cantons offering worse services than others.


Stem cell research law:
60 per cent in favour, 25 per cent against, 15 per cent undecided.
Financial reform:
52 per cent in favour, 13 per cent against, 35 per cent undecided.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR