Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum 39

Submission from the Genetic Interest Group

SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE

  The Genetic Interest Group (GIG), an umbrella organisation working for more than 130 member groups who have a keen interest in the undertaking of high quality ethically sound biomedical research, is alarmed at the news of a potential ban on the creation of animal-human hybrid embryos for research purposes.

  When weighed against the lives that patients with intractable or incurable conditions must lead, we find the arguments proposing a ban, and the end of some potentially fruitful research, to be insufficient. The Genetic Interest Group believes that this avenue of research should be examined for its potential before it is closed.

EVIDENCE FROM THE GENETIC INTEREST GROUP

  1.  The Genetic Interest Group (GIG) is an umbrella organisation working for more than 130 member groups, who support patients of inherited conditions and their families. Many of the conditions represented by our member groups are incurable and intractable, with no cure or treatment on the horizon. GIG speaks from the perspective of those who have a keen interest in the undertaking of high quality ethically sound biomedical research into the links between genetics and human health and disease. GIG's members and the families they support depend on research, and its application in the form of new products and services to eliminate or alleviate the impact of diseases which currently cause chronic ill health, frequently progressive disability and sometimes premature death.

  2.  GIG was alarmed to read paragraphs 2.81-2.85 of the Department of Health Review of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, announcing a potential ban on newly devised animal-human hybrid embryo creation. GIG believes that this ban would close, or narrow significantly, a potentially fruitful avenue of research; as yet unexplored.

  3.  Our members are aware that there has been no treatment delivered from embryonic stem cell research, and that there is none forthcoming. Despite this, our members look towards this research with hope, and even expectation. Their strongly held view that this avenue of research should be investigated fully, is a product of their (or their families) healthcare situation.

  4.  As long as an individual is free of injury or disease, they can prioritise ethical or religious principles. However, once an individual or their family is affected by a condition that is incurable, intractable or life-threatening, their priorities can change dramatically. Any ethical or religious argument against an avenue of research should be weighed against potential treatments or cures for the thousands of UK citizens that must endure a life of pain and/or disability due to an intractable or incurable condition.

  5.  The creation of animal-human hybrid embryos has been labelled unnatural. This is a familiar argument that should be rejected. All molecular, cell, and genetic biological research could be described as such. IVF is the most obvious example of a health technology initially criticised as unnatural; it is now almost universally accepted as a wonderful technology for the treatment of infertility.

  6.  Another argument against allowing animal-human embryo creation and the following research is that it has no proven scientific worth. GIG would respond that this is an argument for allowing the research to examine how valuable this new technology could be.

  7.  The Genetic Interest Group believes that high quality ethically sound biomedical research should be allowed to flourish in the UK for the potential benefit of its citizens.

January 2007





 
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