Brown compromise over embryo vote
The MPs will be able to follow their consciences in three areas – including allowing scientists to create embryos with human DNA and animal cells.
But the prime minister expects all Labour MPs to back the whole bill when it comes to the final Commons vote.
The PM offered the deal after warnings that some Catholic Labour MPs and cabinet ministers were ready to rebel.
In his Easter sermon at the weekend, the leader of the Scottish Catholic Church, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, described the proposed legislation as a “monstrous attack on human rights, human dignity and human life”, adding that it would allow experiments of “Frankenstein proportion”.
Human rights? Frankenstein proportion? The Catholics are using highly misleading language and demonstrating their scientific ignorance at the same time.
The Medical Research Council, The Royal Society, The Wellcome Trust and The Academy of Medical Sciences say,
“This research has massive potential to provide treatments for serious debilitating disorders ranging from developmental abnormalities in young children, to stroke, cancer, HIV/Aids, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, as well as better and safer treatment for infertile couples.”
Whatever the religious claims, the human fertilisation and embryology bill is not in some special moral category of its own. It allows scientists to use the outer empty shell of animal eggs, for lack of spare human eggs, in which to implant purely human DNA for 14 days, to derive stem cell lines which model a particular disease to be studied in the lab. The UK pioneers stem-cell research into Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, motor neurone disease and muscular dystrophy, as well as cancer, diabetes, strokes and infertility. Contrary to the cardinals’ wilfully ignorant campaign of misinformation, no animal hybrid, no monstrous Island of Doctor Moreau chimeras loom. Forget spurious “thin end of the wedge” arguments: no further step can be taken without another act of parliament. After wide public consultation, three years of parliamentary scrutiny and passage through the Lords, this has strong support from by the Medical Research Foundation, the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences, as well as Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.