The British government has won support in parliament for its highly-controversial attempt to change the law on embryo research. A move, led by the Conservative opposition, to ban the creation of hybrid human-animal embryos failed, following an impassioned debate in the House of Commons.
“We have an opportunity tonight to make a real difference to chronic diseases,” said Labour MP Fiona Taggart.
That is also the view of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who urged members of his party to support scientists who are already creating embryos using human DNA and hollowed-out animal cells. It is hoped these experiments may lead to a cure for cancer, as well as diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
But many members of parliament insist it is unethical.
A second vote, to change the human fertilisation and embryology legislation to allow parents to create ‘saviour siblings’ – babies who can provide genetic material for sick brothers and sisters – also resulted in victory for the government.
Later today there will be two more votes – on lowering the time limit for abortion from 24 weeks, and improving access to IVF treatment for lesbian couples.