Monday 1 September 2008

Nothing honourable about Professor Robert Edwards

Alastair MacDonald, the second-ever child to be born by IVF, has called for Professor Robert Edwards, the IVF pioneer, to receive an honour for his work. There is, however, nothing honourable about IVF, which is not treatment for infertiliy but a large-scale experiment abusing and destroying early human life. Prof. Edwards revealed the true nature of IVF in his evidence to a parliamentary committee in 2004. Prof. Edwards said:

"[O]nly 15% of all human eggs will implant. We are in a disaster area here so you have to select the embryos, and we now know how to select them—just to find the 15%." (JS: By "eggs" Prof. Edwards means fertilised eggs i.e. embryos)

As SPUC has pointed out repeatedly, the vast majority of human beings conceived in the laboratory are discarded, or frozen, or selectively aborted, or miscarried or used in destructive experiments.

Prof. Edwards also commented about pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD):

"When people say PGD is expensive, I always say what is the price of a disabled baby who is born. What is the cost for anyone to bear? That is a terrible price for anybody to bear, and the financial cost is immense. A PGD by comparison is a very small sum of money."

IVF is therefore the route by which the disabled
are killed because they are deemed to cost too much money.

Prof. Edwards revealed more of his true colours when he was asked whether a line can be drawn between embryo experimentation and eugenics. Prof. Edwards replied:

"Again, it depends what we mean by eugenics. Eugenics was started in the 1870s by an English geneticist [Francis Galton] who had the welfare of mankind in his mind. The work became degraded after 1930 caused by the Nazis ...".

Yet it was the work of Francis Galton which was the inspiration for Nazi eugenics. (Wesley J. Smith, a leading American pro-life bioethicist, has commented about Galton's eugenics on his blog Secondhand Smoke).

Prof. Edwards showed the slippery slope in action:

"One of my ambitions is to take a sample of blood and take a white cell in place of a gamete for patients who do not have their own gametes. That would be wonderful and, by the way, that would involve cloning and that is why I do not agree with abandoning cloning either. I think you have to leave your mind open on all these questions. You never know where you are going to be next week! We may find that cloning helps infertile patients.

In response to the committee request to define "embryo", Prof. Edwards said variously:

"[Y]ou have to define human life and I would not like to do that ... I would say that most scientists I know would be very unwilling to define too hard because we understand what we are doing and I can understand what all my colleagues are doing in the advance of research. I am not trying to be unhelpful ... I think the answer is to make your own definition."

This sort of evasive, hazy and self-serving approach would be unacceptable in any other professional field. Imagine a reconnaissance officer who would observe an enemy position and report back: "Well, I wouldn't want to say what type of things I saw ... most of us reconnaissance officers don't like to describe too clearly what we see, we just know instinctively ... I think we should just make it up as we feel." Imagine the general's anger and the subsequent court-martial!

Yet the committee - dominated by some of parliament's most notorious anti-lifers - agreed with Prof. Edwards's approach, which is now reflected in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill! Indeed, this approach is a stock-in-trade tactic of the anti-life movement. Among other times, this tactic was successfully deployed in the 1992 Planned Parenthood v Casey case; against SPUC's court challenge on the morning-after pill; and more recently by Barack Obama.

Returning to Prof. Edwards, he is both a deeply disturbing and deeply unimpressive promoter of unethical science, and deserves no honour.