|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Leigh: The hon. Gentleman is entirely honest in the way in which he promotes his point of view and does not take any prisoners, which is good. Does he accept that the purpose of cell nuclear replacement is to create an embryo that is genetically identical to the patient so that cells derived from it are perfectly matched to the patient? Cell nuclear replacement is a technique that was used in the cloning of Dolly the sheep. Therefore, it is scientifically clear that cell nuclear replacement is a technique for the cloning of humans although, admittedly, it is at the first stage. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that?
Another key point about adult stem cells is that their potential is the very factor that makes work on embryonic stem cells so critical. It will be possible to realise the potential of adult-derived stem cells and adult-derived stem cell therapies only if we get answers from the embryological work. The more papers that suggest that, eventually, adult stem cells might work somewhere down the line, the more important it is, in the short to medium term, to allow embryonic stem cell research to take place. That makes the point, but people in the debate have not understood that.
Ms Kelly: What does the hon. Gentleman make of comments by Professor Scolding of Bristol university, who works in the field of adult stem cells? He says that recent peer-reviewed work done since the publication of the Donaldson review undermines the comments of the Royal Society that it would be at least a decade before scientists could overcome the hurdles blocking the therapeutic use of adult, as opposed to embryonic, stem cells.
Dr. Harris: Professor Scolding came to speak at a meeting on Monday night, which was also attended by the hon. Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon) and my researcher. I have it on good authority that Professor Scolding said that his view, although that of a scientist, was based not on his science but on his religious perspective. He was fair enough to admit that, and scientists should be allowed to speak about their religious views. However, they should make it clear when they are speaking on a scientific basis.
The HFEA exists to ensure that if adult stem cell research is an obvious alternative to research proposals using embryonic stem cells, it will be encouraged and the embryonic line of research, because of the special status accorded to embryos, will not be allowed. We can trust the HFEA to keep control, as it has done with great success in the past 10 years.
Hon. Members will find that scientists themselves will follow the successful science. Working on embryos will not be easy. One speaker said that there will be a rush to use embryos because the work is easy. It is extremely difficult to derive eggs for cell nuclear replacement. As the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, South-West (Dr. Starkey) has said to me on several occasions, it is not a trivial matter for a woman to donate eggs, whether for embryos for IVF or for this sort of research. Eggs are in extremely short supply. Eventually, there may well be a
Finally, it is likely that if, eventually, there are therapeutic advantages from adult stem cells, that is where the therapies will be. Scientists will flock to that line of work because it will be available in the scale that we need. I maintain that the citing of adult stem cell research as an argument for voting against the regulations is not based on a rationale or science. Some people will oppose the regulations anyway, but it is wrong of them to seek to create a pseudo-scientific argument to justify what is otherwise a respectable opinion.
Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North): I am grateful to have a chance to speak in our debate. I do so on the basis that I, too, have had IVF treatment which, in my case, was successful. I am also a theologian, and this must be the only occasion during my entire time in the House on which I can put those two experiences to use.
The Minister's speech was wonderful, but I take issue with her because I do not agree that ends can justify means--the ends and the means have to be justified. In this instance, I believe that both are. Perhaps the Minister does as well, and I have misrepresented her. However, I believe that the ends and the means are completely justified.
A big argument used by people who do not agree with the measure is not so much about cell replacement but the fact that embryos are destroyed in the process, which is equated with the destruction of life. Clearly, however, that is not the case, as has been shown in the Warnock report, the Polkinghorne report and all the regulations. We are talking about embryos that have the potential for life, which is not the same as being alive. An awful lot of circumstances have to intervene to enable them to become human beings. We should not, therefore, treat them as people, although as human embryos they are worthy of special respect. It has been clearly set out that they have special status and deserve special respect. Indeed, that is partly why the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority was established. It has served the country startlingly well and has provided a forum for ethical debates and public consultation. It has ensured that, in comparison with people in most countries around the world, we can take the ethical dimension carefully into account.
For people who are concerned about the family life aspect of the IVF equation, I point out that the right of the child is one of the factors that must be taken into account in the provision of treatment. The needs of any child born of the treatment must be considered, including the right of that child to a father. As I said, the regulatory framework is in place. The hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) spoke about policing, but I have no worries whatever on that score.
Time is short, so I shall keep my remarks brief in the hope that more hon. Members can speak. However, I should like to speak about the ethics of medical research and whether another form of research should be used. With regard to the criteria and qualifications that should be taken into account, I am again satisfied that the means
Medical research should also be as non-invasive as possible and should be the most likely option to achieve success. Thus, if embryonic cells will produce a better result than adult stem cells, it is preferable to use the former, as research on them is most likely to achieve success. Medical research should also occur in an environment that replicates the human condition as closely as possible. Animal research is sometimes appropriate, but if an environment is available that is more closely related to the person who is to be treated, there is pressure and impetus to consider it first.
Embryo research will occur only with the consent of the people who have created the embryos. That is a major consideration. People already donate their organs for transplant, but there is an obvious difference between donating a liver or heart and providing genetic material to be used for a non-procreative purpose. Indeed, that is a dramatically different step, which is why informed consent is important and why people must consider the implications carefully.
I have been through that process and know what it is like to look at embryos that are part of one's genetic material and which have the potential for life. In the circumstances in question, they could never create life. In my case, they could not be used for donation because they are not of good enough quality, as I am too old, although I might not want to give them away as they are part of my genetic material. However, I must ask what the embryos will do if they cannot create life or reproduce something of my husband and me. Is not it special that, although they cannot create a child, they might help to save somebody's life, improve the quality of somebody's life or stop illnesses for future generations?
All those processes and considerations can be strange. It can be a huge journey to think through all the issues while sitting in front of a form. Of course, those issues are already tried and tested. It is for people to make a decision in their hearts and to make up their own minds on what they can and cannot accept.
For all those reasons, I believe that the means and ends are justified. I hope that the House will agree to the regulations and enable the science to proceed. It has already given people such as me the chance to have a child, and can now give other people a chance to live.
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): This has been a good debate. Our discussion has generally been good natured and both sides of the argument have been put across well. It is difficult for somebody such as me to make the speech that I am about to make, for only five minutes or so, as one is faced with people who are suffering appallingly. They look at people such as me and ask how we can stand in the face of medical science that could relieve their suffering.
First, I shall try to meet halfway some of the proponents of the regulations. I accept that embryo-based research is superior at the present stage of scientific development to that based on adult stem cells. Although I acknowledge
However, I should like briefly to refer to a view expressed in Science on 25 February this year by Dr. Vogel, who wrote that adult stem cells become different types of cells only when they are given new signals to do so. When they are placed in their usual environment, they seem to produce only the cell types of that particular tissue, which is exactly what is needed to repair such tissue safely. Dr. Vogel wrote that
Secondly, it is important to decide how the debate is defined and to get the definitions right. Surely we must accept that we are not discussing an instant panacea. People who are currently cruelly afflicted by illness should not believe that we are discussing a panacea in respect of their serious conditions. Paragraph 4.31 of the Donaldson report states:
My third and strongest point relates to cloning. I hope that I may refer to the definitions provided by the European Parliament, which is not filled with people who will always agree with my point of view. It defines human cloning as the creation of human embryos that have the same genetic make-up as another human being, dead or alive, at any stage of their development, without any possible distinction regarding the methods used. I was grateful to the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris), who has been a leading proponent of the regulations, for accepting the point that I put to him. I asserted that the purpose of cell nuclear replacement is to create an embryo that is genetically identical to the patient, so that the cells derived therefrom are perfectly matched to the patient. The technique of cell nuclear replacement was used to clone Dolly the sheep. Thus it is scientifically clear that cell nuclear replacement is a technique for the cloning of human beings. Let us at least accept that point of view.