Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Three-parent embryo technique flouts global ethics

SPUC has responded to the claim reported today by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) that the technique labelled "mitochondrial donation" may be safe for humans.

Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, told the media earlier today:
"Human gene manipulation is being sold to a gullible public on a promise of reducing suffering, the same old con-trick that the test-tube baby lobby has been using for decades.

Gene manipulation can only be pursued by breaking several important moral rules. Those rules are not trivial. They are designed to uphold human dignity, the integrity of science and the international community. Human germ-line manipulation and cloning – changing the genetic inheritance of future generations - goes against internationally-agreed norms for ethical science.

It entails creating human guinea-pigs. As Professor Andy Greenfield, the chairman of the scientific review panel that has approved the techniques, has himself admitted, we won't know the effects until it is actually done on children. To do this, we have to subject children who have not consented and cannot consent to being test subjects. What if they refuse to be subjected to the long-term testing and monitoring necessary (in them and their offspring) to find any adverse long-term effects?

If the process produces any benefit it will not only be at the cost of risks for these children, but it will further undermine the British political and medical establishment as a force for ethical restraint in science around the world.

By flouting international agreements not to do this, we will lose credibility when it comes to trying to persuade other countries to observe ethical norms in fields like medical research, experiments involving children, and non-consensual procedures. Why should other countries listen to us when we make unilateral decisions to engage in abuses?

The use of these techniques shows that the advocates of IVF who claimed 25 years ago that it would not lead to human genetic manipulation were either being naïve, foolish or frankly deceitful.

The techniques will not stop here. Who is to decide what other so-called "flaws" in people's genes should be "corrected? As we have seen with the sex-selection abortion saga, what one culture regards as abhorrent and illegal, others see as the legitimate application of science to solve a problem of human suffering."
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