September 28, 2022

Britain prepares for debate on new fertility law

Opponents square off


Supporters
and opponents of Britain’s revised fertility legislation are
dancing in their corners and punching the air before the bell rings
for the final round in Parliament next month. Below are a few of the
latest air swings. British newspapers are full of articles on the
bill, which has divided the country almost as much as the war in
Iraq. The best summary so far of the issues is a thoroughly
researched article in the London Times,
“An
embryonic disaster?”
. It is well
worth reading.

 Sir
Ian Wilmut
, leader of the team
which created Dolly the cloned sheep: “the key thing about humans
is our consciousness and our ability to communicate and so on. The
human embryos people are working with are smaller than a grain of
sand. You need a microscope to see them. They are weeks from the
stage where there would be a nervous system and the ability to be
aware. To me, and I suspect the majority of people in 21st century
Britain, a human being is someone who is aware.”

Mark
Pritchard
, Conservative MP:
“Scientists, however well-meaning, need to be less ‘absolute’
in their claims that somehow human embryo research alone provides the
Holy Grail for many of the world’s diseases… Today, breakthroughs
in adult stem cell science are used to cure thousands of people with
all sorts of illnesses. By contrast, there has been no recorded case
of a single patient who has been cured of any disease using human
embryonic stem cells, a small detail omitted by the large bio-tech
corporations that stand to make millions from the Government’s
proposals.”

Sir
Leszek Borysiewicz
, chief
executive of the Medical Research Council: “I was brought up as a
Catholic at home, both my parents are Catholics and I have continued
to be a member of the Church. I go to church but I have had
considerable issues with some of the stances the Church has taken on
a variety of health-related issues. My conscience tells me very
firmly that I should support the Bill as it stands.”

Dr
James Sherley, Boston Biomedical
Research Institute: “Of course, [human-animal hybrids] will be
human in species because of their human genome. Nothing else is
required to define them as human, no matter how aberrant they may be
as a result of activation of their genome by animal oocyte factors.
[Supporters of hybrid embryos] are correct when they ask, ‘If they
are not human, what are they?’ The only answer to this rhetorical
question is a factual one, ‘Human, of course!’” ~ Nature Cell
Biology, March