In Britain, a law to allow human and animal material to be combined in embryos, to help find cures for disease, has passed its first parliamentary hurdle. The Health Secretary Alain Johnson said the ethics of it would now be discussed in committee: “Stem cell research has enormous potential to develop new cures for degenerative and other life threatening diseases. It brings hope to hundreds of thousands of sufferers and their families. This government believes that we should continue to support such research in order to exploit advances in medical science.”
But the legislation has sparked fierce debate. Some opponents say it is immoral, even “monstrous”. Catholic member of parliament, Claire Curtis-Thomas doesn’t see the benefit: “Embryonic research has been with us since 1990. So far no beneficial therapies have resulted as a result of that research. However adult stem cell research has produced over 80 therapies and 350 are now in clinical trials.”
Those in favour of the bill believe it could lead to a cure for Parkinsons and Alzheimers. Other provisions of the legislation are no less controversial, like a green light for the creation of donor siblings and IVF for lesbians. One amendment to be tabled proposes a lowering of the legal abortion limit from 24 weeks. That would please the pro-life lobby in the UK, who claim having an abortion at 24 weeks into a pregnancy is akin to murder.