And Represents A Fundamental Challenge To What It Means To Be Human

Andrea Williams
Andrea Williams

The Draft Human Tissue and Embryology Bill has now been published. Within it the Government propose to remove the requirement for doctors to have regard for the need of any child they assist in bringing into the world through assisted reproductive technology for a father (clause 21). This proposal flies in the face of the wealth of research that demonstrates that a father is central to a child's welfare. This role is different but complementary to that of the mother. Children deprived of a father often experience psychological, social and community disadvantages. This proposal is all about the alleged "rights" and demands of adults and nothing about the needs of children.

This Bill has many other concerning features as summarised below:

  • The Bill will allow scientists to create any variety of animal-human hybrid embryos for research purposes (clause 17)
  • It is proposed that the Reproductive Cloning Act 2001, which banned reproductive cloning, be repealed and replaced by something far less clear cut (clause 16, para 15.5)
  • It is proposed that non-profit making bodies be allowed to advertise in order facilitate surrogacy arrangements (clause 66)

The Government has invited written evidence by 15th June. Please consider writing to the Government with your views. You can find the draft Bill and details of the Government's request for evidence by going to the Department of Health's website.

Should you wish to write to the Government, we suggest choosing one or two of the above issues that you feel most strongly about and make one or two points about each. Here are some suggested points you could make:

  • The human embryo is human life. It is unethical to use them as a means to an end
  • The animal/human hybrid embryos are alleged to be needed to conduct embryonic stem cell research but adult stem cell research has far greater potential to create useful therapies and is ethically sound. It has already produced real medical advances when embryonic stem cell research has produced none (for further information, see the cloning and embryology pages of the Care website and The Centre for Bioethics & Public Policy's website)
  • The mixing of human and non-human biological material involves an unnatural crossing of the species barrier. We do not know what the consequences could be in terms of tumour formation or disease transmission.
  • The creation of animal/human hybrids is banned in many countries.
  • Cloning human embryos is unethical because it uses human life as a means to an end
  • Reproductive cloning or the creation of "designer babies" is totally unethical
  • Adult stem cell technology has already made great advances in providing therapies and is an ethically sound alternative to embryonic cloning