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'HFE Bill introduces measures which are unproven, unnecessary and unethical', says CMF

Published: 22nd October 2008

The Christian Medical Fellowship has said that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, which has its report and third reading stage in the House of Commons today, introduces measures which are unproven, unnecessary and unethical.

Peter Saunders, CMF General Secretary said, "The original Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 paved the way for IVF and other technologies for artificial reproduction, but also opened the floodgates to destructive embryo research. Over two million human embryos have been destroyed since. This new bill takes us several huge steps further down the slippery slope in allowing practices that we believe are unproven, unnecessary and unethical – including animal-human hybrids, saviour siblings and the use of tissue from children, mentally incapacitated people and even people who have died, for embryo research without explicit consent."

"The Prime Minister in May described animal-human hybrid research to produce embryonic stem cells as "an inherently moral endeavour that can save and improve the lives of thousands and over time millions of people". With the huge difficulties already encountered in this research these claims are already looking extravagant at best. Science has already moved on and worldwide thousands of people have been treated using alternative ethical therapies involving adult and cord blood stem cells with thousands of clinical trials currently underway. And induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) – reprogrammed body cells – which were discovered separately in Japan and the US after the parliamentary debate was underway appear to provide embryo-like cells without having to destroy human embryos in the process.'"

"We need to beware of the influence that enthusiastic research scientists and the biotechnology industry can have on these important parliamentary debates. The measures in this bill have been whipped through on the back of a highly effective propaganda campaign led by the Times newspaper and playing on the gullibility of vulnerable patient interest groups, an uneducated public and scientifically illiterate politicians.'"

Saunders continued, "I expect that this Bill will largely become an embarrassing footnote in history. The radical measures it proposes are unlikely to make a therapeutic impact and the government would be far better advised to put its time and money into proven areas of research that are already yielding much fruit. There is a real danger that Britain will invest its time and money up a scientific dead end street and will be left behind in the race to find new treatments for degenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Diabetes. This also raises serious questions about stewardship of scarce resources at uncertain times"

CMF did however welcome the government decision announced yesterday to rule out any further debate on Britain's abortion laws this afternoon.

"It is extraordinary that with almost 7 million abortions already in Britain, a small cross-party group of MPs with extreme views were planning to hijack the Bill to introduce a series of amendments to the Abortion Act which would liberalise the law even further, such as abortion on request up to 24 weeks, nurse abortion, GP surgery abortion with completion at home and extension of the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. There is even an amendment proposing gaol sentences of up to two years for pro-life counsellors found guilty of "misleading advertising". The Prime Minister has quite understandably given these draconian measures, which were never part of the original bill, a well-deserved kick into the long grass. What we really need is a more comprehensive review of the ethical, social and scientific issues surrounding abortion leading to focused primary legislation, rather than trying to tack this debate onto other legislation for which available time is already limited'"

But he added, "This afternoon's debate is the wrong time and place to be discussing abortion but CMF, as a member of the Alive and Kicking Alliance, will continue to press in the future for restrictive amendments to the Abortion Act which will reduce substantially the 24 week upper time limit, end discriminatory abortion of the disabled up until birth, and provide balanced evidence-based information, independently of the abortion service, that gives women a properly informed choice, along with the offer of counselling."

For further information:

Steven Fouch (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9668

Media Enquiries:

Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225

About CMF:

Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 5,000 doctors, 900medical and nursing students and 300 nurses and midwives as members in all branches of medicine, nursing and midwifery. A registered charity, it is linked to over 100 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.

CMF exists to unite Christian healthcare professionals to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.

Christian Medical Fellowship:
uniting & equipping Christian doctors & nurses
Contact Phone020 7234 9660
Contact Address6 Marshalsea Road, London SE1 1HL
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Registered in England no. 6949436. Registered Charity no. 1131658.
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