Select Committee on Science and Technology Fifth Report


Summary

We have conducted this inquiry in response to the publication of Government proposals to prohibit the creation of human-animal chimera or hybrid embryos for research for the time being. We have also taken account of recent applications from researchers for licences to create human-animal cytoplasmic hybrid embryos for research.

There have been significant developments in science and medicine since the passing of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act in 1990, and we recognise the need for revised legislation in this area of research. We believe that public confidence in this area of research must be encouraged and that the Government should ensure wider public understanding in this area through increased education and dialogue. We find this of particular importance in respect of the sincere ethical and moral concerns associated with the creation of human-animal chimera or hybrid embryos for research.

We find that the creation of human-animal chimera or hybrid embryos, and specifically cytoplasmic hybrid embryos, is necessary for research. However, we maintain the view of the previous Science and Technology Select Committee that development of human-animal chimera or hybrid embryos past the 14-day stage should be prohibited and that a prohibition should be put in place on the implantation of human-animal chimera or hybrid embryos in a woman.

We are critical of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority for delaying assessment of applications for licences to create cytoplasmic hybrid embryos for research. It is the role of HFEA to make judgement in areas considered within the spirit of the HFE Act and we find delay of assessment of these applications by HFEA inappropriate once the Authority had established that such research is within its remit.

We find the Government proposals prohibitive, notwithstanding the provision of powers to allow future regulation in this area at an unspecified date. Some research practices should be permitted under licence immediately. We recommend that the Government build upon its previous, successful, record through regulation of embryo research and we propose mechanisms for legislation and regulation of the creation of human-animal chimera or hybrid embryos for research. We are critical of the Government for not clearly setting out the areas of research practice intended to fall under the proposed legislation and suggest that greater attention should be paid to implications of the proposals for current research practice and the UK research base.




 
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