di Marcello Mento
Rome, March 21 - Controversial stem-cell medical treatments that are already underway should continue, despite court rulings to the contrary, Health Minister Renato Balduzzi said Thursday. The cabinet decision means the continuation of stem-cell treatments, including that of a toddler at the Brescia hospital in northern Italy. "The (decision) is based on the ethical principle that medical treatment which has already started without serious side effects should not be stopped," said Balduzzi. A ministerial regulation clarifying treatment details will be issued in the coming, the health ministry said. The decision comes after a recent ruling by a Venetian court that a life-saving treatment for local toddler Celeste Carrer should continue in the Brescia hospital. Those treatments, using stem-call transplants from her mother's bone marrow, began 18 months ago to halt the spinal muscular atrophy causes the toddler's muscles to waste away. Celeste was reportedly able to move her neck, arms, and legs following an early treatment. However, her treatments were halted last May when a Turin prosecutor launched an investigation into the Stamina Foundation, the stem-cell research group that carried out her treatments. Police raided the hospital, blocking treatment for numerous other patients, according to staff. Stem-cell treatment, which is legal in Italy in life-threatening instances, is contentious because it sometimes involves the destruction of a human embryo. Italy banned the use of embryos in stem cell research in 2004, but in 2007 Italian researchers obtained adult stem cells which they said were as effective as those obtained from embryos.