May 26, 2024

Informed consent inconvenient for our research, complain UK scientists

They want to mine tissue banks to create hybrid embryos

Writing open letters to the
government warning of imminent catastrophe has become part of the job
description for leading scientists in Britain nowadays. Most recently
they tolled the warning bell in a letter to the London Times
demanding that the government waive informed consent requirements for
stem cell research. It was signed by 20 biomedical researchers and
administrators, including three Nobel laureates. Although the UK government has a
history of granting everything stem cell scientists ask for, this
demand presents a troublesome problem. Nowadays it is expected that
patients will be asked for their informed consent before their tissue
is used for research. And patients who donated their material to
tissue banks are unlikely to have foreseen that it would be used to
create clones, especially human-animal hybrid clones. The scientists,
however, contend that tracking down the patients will be expensive
and time-consuming. Another onerous provision, complain the
scientists, is that even if parents give their consent, tissue
samples from children cannot be used. This could hurt “the UK’s
reputation as the place of choice for this exciting and world-leading
medical research”.

Two scientists have already
experienced moments of frustration. Dr Lyle Armstrong from Newcastle
University was given a green light by the UK’s fertility
regulator to create hybrid embryos in the past week, but then was
stymied by the consent requirement. And Dr Stephen Minger, of King’s
College, London, was blocked by the requirement for consent from
children. Whether or not the Brown government will amend its
legislation is not clear. ~ London Times, Jan 21