Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gordon misunderstands his own bill say Labour MPs

Six Labour MPs have written to Gordon Brown, taking issue with his March open letter on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

The letter from MPs Jim Dobbin, Geraldine Smith, Claire Curtis Thomas, Joe Benton, David Drew and the Rt Hon Tom Clarke, which will also be sent to all Labour MPs, takes issue with the Prime Minister’s scientific understanding of the Bill, and calls for a free vote to be extended to all areas of the Bill involving new ethical issues.

The letter points out that the Bill allows for the mixing of animal and human gametes to create true half -half hybrid embryos and note that in his evidence to the Joint Committee on 6th June 2007, the chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson said “it was felt…there was no clear scientific benefit; there was no clear scientific argument as to why you would want to do it, and, secondly, a feeling that this would be a step too far as far as the public are concerned.”

The MPs note that the Bill would not in limit the creation of “saviour” siblings to the treatment of ‘rare genetic conditions,’ but would enable their creation for any unspecified “serious” condition.

They also criticize the the granting of HFEA licenses to scientists at Newcastle and London universities to create hybrid embryos before parliament has considered the HFE Bill and notes that the licenses may not even have been legal under the 1990 Act.

“An unelected body must not be allowed to usurp the place of Parliament, and attempts by Newcastle to create ‘facts on the ground’ ahead of the debate, through releasing a highly premature report of embryos that only survive ‘up to three days,’ no embryonic stem cells, and where the work has not been fully validated and is not even ready to start writing up for peer review, must be ignored,” the letter says.

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