Friday 23 January 2009

Irish bill to protect human embryos fails to achieve its objective

The Stem-Cell Research (Protection of Human Embryos) Bill 2008, debated in the Dáil (the Irish Parliament) last November, may now have run its course and may progress no further.

Nevertheless, this well-intentioned bill, introduced by Senator Rónán Mullen, deserves the careful analysis (provided by Southern Cross Bioethics Institute) to which Pat Buckley draws attention today. It's important that legislative measures, seeking to uphold the sanctity of human life, can withstand ethical scrutiny and don't, on reflection, make the situation they seek to resolve worse.

In the words of the analysis which deserves to be read in full, published on Pat Buckley's blog:

" ... How is it possible that a Bill containing in its title the “Protection of Human Embryos” fails to do so?

"The Bill achieves this by bracketing out artificial reproductive technology (ART) from the definition of “embryo-destructive research”. That is, the Bill excludes from the definition of “embryo-destructive research”: (i) in vitro fertilisation and accompanying embryo transfer to a woman’s body, or (ii) any diagnostic procedure carried out for the benefit of the human embryo which is subject to such test.

"Therefore, this Bill provides explicit approval for ART.In every context in which ART takes place, and specifically in vitro fertilisation (IVF), embryo transfer (ET) and related diagnostic testing, human embryos are placed at extreme risk with by far the majority being either discarded, subjected to procedures and processes involving their destruction, or allowed to succumb when unwanted ... "