Submission from the Christian Medical
1-3. We introduce Christian Medical Fellowship's
status and relevant core beliefs, and list relevant submissions
made to other recent inquiries.
4-5. We remain opposed to creating human-animal
hybrid or chimera embryos, and therefore welcome the Government's
proposed ban. We amplify our position and are willing to give
6-9. We clarify our commitment to science
by emphasising that it must operate within ethical boundaries.
This is right in itself, and is essential for retaining the support
of society. Conflicts of interest may arise from the potential
for huge financial profit from biotechnology.
10-11. We commence specific objections to
creating human-animal hybrid or chimera embryos by drawing on
the biblical concept of "according to their kinds" and
note that the language of "kinds" has both a natural
and a supernatural dimension. We direct the Committee to the discussion
on "mixing of kinds" in the 2001 Report from the Animal
12. Humans are the only animals made "in
the image of God". Cross-species experimentation involving
humans needs a far higher ethical threshold.
13-15. In the 2001 UK Census, 72% of the
population of England and Wales described their religion as "Christian".
Most of these derive their meta-narrative broadly from a biblical
Christian worldview. "Frankenbunny" headlines and the
Yuk! factor are expressions of people's intuitions and concerns,
here concordant with the Christian worldview.
16-17. We hold that all destructive human
embryo research is ethically wrong and because all current clinical
benefits (72) come from non-controversial adult stem cells and
none (0) come from embryonic stem cells, it is also unnecessary.
We reject the argument that destroying an embryo only 99.5% human
is ethically less contentious.
18-21. We briefly list practical concerns
of wastefulness, safety, "slippery slopes", and animal
22-23. However, our case is not primarily
a consequentialist one of practical objections such as safety.
It is a defence of a principled one that creating human-animal
hybrid and chimera embryos is wrong in itself. We agree with the
Minister on this issue that in legislation "the overarching
aim is to pursue the common good through a system broadly acceptable
1. The Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF)
is an interdenominational organisation with more than 4,500 British
doctors as members. All are Christians who desire their professional
and personal lives to be governed by the Christian faith as revealed
in the Bible. Members practise in all branches of the profession,
and through the International Christian Medical and Dental Association
are linked with like-minded colleagues in over 100 other countries.
2. One of CMF's aims is "to promote
Christian values, especially in bioethics and healthcare, among
doctors and medical students, in the church and in society".
As Christian doctors we support the use of science and technology
to prevent, treat and relieve the suffering of infertility but
believe that this should be guided by sound ethical principles
based on a profound respect for all human life from the time of
conception, and on respect for marriage as the ideal context for
procreation and the protection and raising of children.
3. CMF regularly makes submissions on ethical
and professional matters to Government committees and other official
bodies. All our submissions are available on our website at www.cmf.org.uk/ethics/submissions/.
Of particular relevance to the current consultation are the following:
November 2005Submission from
CMF to the Department of Health's Review of the Human Fertilisation
and Embryology Act.
April 2005Submission from
CMF to the HFEA on Tomorrow's Childrena Consultation
on Guidance to Licensed Fertility Clinics on Taking into Account
the Welfare of Children to be Born from Assisted Conception.
February 2005CMF response
to the HFEA's SEED consultationThe Regulation of Donor-Assisted
November 2004Submission from
CMF to the Human Genetics Commission on Choosing the Future:
Genetics and Reproductive Decision Making.
May 2004Submission from CMF
to the Science and Technology Committee's Review of Human Reproductive
Technologies and the Law.
January 2003Submission from
CMF to the HFEA in response to Sex Selection: Choice and Responsibility
in Human Reproduction.
4. CMF's position on the question of creating
human-animal hybrid or chimera embryos was made clear in a brief
reply to the question in the DoH review of the HFEA: "The
law should not permit the creation of human-animal chimeras. Once
more we underline the unique nature of human life and politely
request that our nature be upheld. A chimera of this type violates
the natural order and should be prohibited, whether in vitro
or in vivo." We therefore support the Government in
its proposal that "the creation of hybrid and chimera embryos
in vitro, should not be allowed".
5. While regretting the extremely short
notice for this response, we welcome the opportunity to amplify
our position on this one specific issue. We are willing to give
oral evidence if required.
6. Before considering the specific issue
of hybrids, we clarify as Christians and as doctors our general
position on science. Christians derive much of their worldview
from the creation narrative in the Bible, and it is there made
clear (1) that humans are qualitatively different from all non-human
animals, not just quantitatively different. We are not just "clever
monkeys". Further, we are charged to be stewards of the earth
and are accountable to God, and therefore to appropriate temporal
authorities, for what we do with it.
7. The word "science" derives
from the Latin scientia, knowledge, and science is rightly
concerned with "the systematic study of the nature and behaviour
of the material and physical universe, based on observation, experiment
and measurement" (2). However, questions like whether to
create human-animal hybrid embryos require more than knowledge,
they require wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge tempered by judgment.
Science cannot just pursue the acquisition of knowledge without
any consideration of the means involved; it must operate within
ethical boundaries. As Christian doctors we are not anti-science;
we are pro-science, but that science must be ethical.
8. This need for agreed ethical boundaries
is right in itself, but consequentially, it is vital that science
retains the broad support of the whole of society, expressed through
Parliament. We therefore welcome the "full and proper public
debate and consultation" promised by the HFEA (3) and an
eventual debate in Parliament. We see this, perhaps more conceptually
limited, inquiry of the Science and Technology Committee as part
of that wider debate.
9. Further, we have the same altruistic
goals as those scientists on the other side of this debate: we
too want to see cures. However, we repeat our concern about whether
"the ends justify the means" and are obligated to remind
the Committee that there are huge financial profits potentially
to be made from biotechnology. While we make no accusations against
any participant in the debate thus far, it would be naive in the
extreme to ignore this potential for a conflict of interests.
10. We turn to consider the specific issue
of creating human-animal hybrid and chimera embryos, and begin
with objections of principle. Earlier in the Biblical creation
account referred to above, and describing the origin of the plant
and animal kingdoms, the expression "according to their various
kinds" is used once and is followed no fewer than nine times
by "according to their kind(s)" (4). We believe this
emphasis refers not only in a general way to biological aspects
(and note with interest the relative rarity of cross-species fertilisation
in nature) but also has philosophical, ethical, theological, and
legal implications. There is both a natural and a supernatural
dimension to the language of "kinds". The concept is
endorsed in the Old Testament Law where it states "Do not
mate different kinds of animals" (5).
11. Lest it be thought this emphasis of
ours on "kinds" is merely a religious objection that
can be disregarded by those determined to ignore Britain's Judeo-Christian
heritage, we direct the Committee to the lengthy discussion on
"mixing of kinds" in the 2001 Report on Biotechnology
from the Animal Procedures Committee (6).
12. If, as we imply, there should be careful
ethical consideration given to any cross-species work in the plant
or animal kingdom, then much more ethical consideration should
be given to cross-species experimentation where humans are concerned.
As stated above, humans are qualitatively different from all non-human
animals. Unlike these, we alone are made "in the image of
God" (7) and therefore have unique attributes and responsibilities.
Humans have an innate dignity absent from the animal kingdom,
and there is a rich meaning to being human. Deliberately blurring
the fundamental barrier between humans and non-human animals by
admixing genetic material in the same embryo blurs boundaries,
offends the dignity of us all, and risks changing the future of
13. In the 2001 UK Census, 72% of the population
of England and Wales described their religion as "Christian".
While we do not assume those 37.3 million all have an active faith,
or think societal concerns through from a Christian perspective,
nevertheless a majority of those will derive their meta-narrative
from a biblical Christian worldview. The "big picture"
which explains all their little pictures is primarily concordant
with the Judeo-Christian heritage of these two countries. This
is relevant to the following point.
14. When news of the licence applications
broke, there were tabloid headlines of "Frankenbunnies"
and the like. We believe these are unhelpful to any serious debate,
but conversely feel that the so-called Yuk! factor has been dismissed
too readily. Frankenbunny headlines and the Yuk! factor are expressions
of people's intuitions and these are concordant with the Christian
worldview. They are attempts to express, however non-intellectually,
that many recognise that deliberately blurring the fundamental
barrier between humans and non-human animals by admixing genetic
material in the same embryo blurs boundaries, offends the dignity
of us all, and risks changing the future of all humankind.
15. As we made clear in Paragraph 8 it is
essential that scientific progress takes place with broad societal
support, and the science community and the biotechnology industry
behind them need to acknowledge and respond constructively to
these widespread intuitive concerns. We applaud the Government
for recognising the concerns and their foundation in its proposed
16. This debate is part of the wider one
about destructive human embryo research. While we acknowledge
that the DoH White Paper is not re-opening that debate, it is
our duty to say that this ethically controversial research (which
without adding the concept of hybrid creation is controversial,
and remains banned in most countries) is unnecessary. At present
there are 72 clinical benefits in humans coming from ethically
non-controversial adult stem cells (8) and none at all coming
from human embryonic stem cell work.
17. In this context we are surprised at
the suggestion of some (9) that because the hybrids proposed will
only be 99.5% human genetically, this is somehow less ethically
contentious than if they were 100% human. The status of the human
embryo is a qualitative one and not a quantitative one, and we
reject this argument.
18. From specific concerns of principle,
we turn more briefly to specific concerns of practice. Dolly the
sheep was the only survivor from 277 attempts. Human embryo research,
with or without adoption of this hybrid proposal, will be similarly
wasteful. We question whether this adequately recognises the "respect"
for human embryos to which current legislation pays lip service.
19. We briefly raise safety concerns. Many
animals may harbour microbiological and other entities in their
organs, cells, and genome, for which they are healthy carriers
because they have developed protective mechanisms which render
them resistant. Some of these entities are capable of crossing
the species barrier and developing in the host. The appearance
of "new" diseases after crossing the species barrier
is a real concern, as the shelving of xenotransplantation confirms.
20. In this context, the proposal that hybrids
be destroyed at 14 days of embryonic life is not necessarily reassuring.
Were human-animal hybrid work to be allowed, it is not fanciful
to predict a point somewhere down the slippery slope where the
14 day limit is overturned for some alleged particularly pressing
research need, particularly if the hybrid is seen then as less
than human, and an entity in the animal mitochondria, perhaps
currently unknown, becomes a significant pathogen.
21. Although not necessarily a priority
of ours, others will have animal welfare concerns, particularly
if the animal ovum donors have to be bred specifically, and are
not surplus from the abattoir.
22. We have been brief in the preceding
four paragraphs because the primary thrust of our concern does
not depend on consequentialist, pragmatic, practical issues such
as safety. Sooner or later, science and technology tend to overcome
these. Rather, creating human-animal hybrid and chimera embryos
is wrong in itself, for the reasons we outline above. If the Government
proposal to ban these procedures is upheld, then because "necessity
is the mother of invention", ethical science will seek and
find in non-controversial research the cures we all want.
23. In conclusion, we reaffirm our support
for the Government's proposed ban on the creation of human-animal
hybrid and chimera embryos, and agree on this issue with the Minister's
vision for ethical science that "the overarching aim is to
pursue the common good through a system broadly acceptable to
REFERENCES (1) Genesis
(2) Collins English Dictionary, 21st
(3) Angela McNab, Chief Executive of the
HFEA, The Times, January 12 2007, p 8.
(4) Genesis 1:11, 12 (twice), 21 (twice),
24 (twice), 25 (three times).
(5) Leviticus 19:19.
(6) Animal Procedures Committee. Report
on Biotechnology. June 2001. See Section 5, "Mixing of
Kinds", paragraphs 52-57.
(7) Genesis 1:27, 9:6.
(8) www.stemcellresearch.org, accessed
17 January 2007.
(9) House of Commons Science and Technology
Committee. Human Reproductive Technologies and the Law.
2005. See paragraph 66.
(10) Caroline Flint MP, Minister of State
for Public Health. Foreword to Review of the Human Fertilisation
and Embryology Act. December 2006.