Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220-226)|
5 FEBRUARY 2007
Q220 Graham Stringer: Is there not
a huge difficulty and problems though in going down that road
in as much as if, after the conversation with the public, after
all the education, 77% of the population still believe this research
has a big `yuck' factor in it, would that change your position?
I am very interested in your response but how you would separate
out the logic of a series of propositions and decisions from public
Mr Denegri: I think it is a very
difficult question. I was not suggesting that charities should
be the only mechanism. You are right, there are other mechanisms,
including of course yourselves in this room and in the Upper House.
In those sorts of scenarios, again, I think it comes down to this
question between balancing wider social benefits towards some
of the concerns which are being expressed. What my charities would
say very forcefully is that, in terms of the millions of people
who could be benefited from this, as well as a broader spectrum
of research, this will be pursued. I am not going to attempt to
try to answer what I would do in that circumstance, because really
I do not know, but there has to be a balance which needs to be
struck, I agree.
Professor Gillon: It seems to
me that the public consultation should be a public educational
process as well as a consultation process, as I indicated earlier,
and there are lots of different ways of doing it. I was quite
impressed, walking into the Science Museum recently, to see the
beginnings of interactive consultation, where people are confronted
with counter examples to their initial prospective answers. But
I think there is a point which needs to be made here, that unless
there is good reason to stop people doing scientific research
the presumption should be that they should be allowed to do it
and that it should be the scientists who decide the sorts of priorities
that they want to, unless there is a strong reason against that.
This is part of the principle of respect for autonomy, you allow
people to do their own thing unless it is against the interests
of other people. There may be, but I am not convinced that I have
heard any good arguments that this particular development is against
the interests of other people.
Q221 Dr Turner: I would like to ask
whether you, Professor, or your members, Mr Denegri, feel that
the proposals which have been put on hold by the HFEA do, in fact,
not fall within the scope of the present Act?
Professor Gillon: Yes, I think
Mr Denegri: The feeling of my
members also is that they do, yes.
Q222 Dr Iddon: Yes, he made that
quite clear in answer to my question. Can I ask you both, is it
fair to bring into what should be a rational debate emotions like,
"Well, there are people suffering out there and if we don't
do this research they're going to continue suffering"?
Professor Gillon: Yes, because
the suffering an aspect of is precisely this issue of beneficence
and non-beneficence, in this jargon that I offered earlier, that
we should be addressing in ethics. We want to reduce suffering
and avoid causing suffering and we want to cause flourishing as
part of our ethical obligations; so it is tremendously important
to bring in the issues of reduction of suffering.
Mr Denegri: I agree. I think it
is crucial. I think it is the motivation behind the research.
Q223 Mr Newmark: I am going to discuss
regulation for a second. What would you like to see within the
Government's proposals for this research area and, in particular,
would you be happy with the current proposal, i.e. that the work
is banned at the moment but may be allowed in the future, or do
you think this proposal of the Government is a bit Vicky Pollardish:
"Yeah, but . . . No, but . . . Yeah, but . . . No, but .
. . "?
Professor Gillon: It seems to
me it is exactly the wrong way round; it should be allowed with
a provision in regulations to disallow it if a good reason turns
up to disallow it.
Q224 Adam Afriyie: In the previous
Science and Technology Committee's Report, the Human Reproductive
Technologies and the Law Report in 2005, the position was
that we should make the creation of these entities legal for research
purposes if they are destroyed in line with the current 14-day
rule for human embryos. Is it beneficial to continue with this
research up to the 14-day mark; is that acceptable to your members,
is that acceptable ethically?
Mr Denegri: There has been no
suggestion that 14-day limit should change.
Professor Gillon: Yes; it seems
to me that it is perfectly reasonable to use exactly the same
regulations as already exist.
Mr Denegri: Certainly we would
support the proposal to regulate it under the Act, in the same
way that we do currently, and then, if necessary, clarify the
law. Certainly we agree with you, there is a bit of a Vicky Pollard
approach to this, which is not helpful.
Chairman: I wish Vicky Pollard had not
been brought into this.
Q225 Dr Harris: I just wanted to
ask how far your ethical support goes for this sort of research,
so moving away from these nuclear replacement creations, which
probably are covered, it is argued, by the HFE Act, towards the
idea of hybrids, so fusing human gametes with animal gametes to
create an entity up to 14 days for research only, which clearly
is not permitted by the current rule, but Parliament is reviewing
it, and the issue of chimeras, which may be taken where the cells
from more than one species or individual in a developing embryo,
or even foetus. If one were to allow that, subject to regulation,
that would go beyond 14 days because it would be no longer in
vitro, it might be in an animal. Would you say that the law should
be permissive, pending regulation banning certain things; do you
think there is an ethical argument for that? Or is there more
an ethical argument in those areas for the Government's position,
of banning it and then maybe allowing it, if later on a scientific
basis comes forward?
Professor Gillon: I do not see
a moral difference between the two cases. I would have the same
view, that it is perfectly morally justifiable to do the work
if it is seen to be of scientific interest. I think that would
be the criterion I would use; provided the 14-day rule applied
Q226 Dr Harris: Would you ban it until
it became of scientific interest, or would you allow it but subject
to regulation if there was permissive regulation?
Professor Gillon: I would allow
it. The presumption I would have is let people do the science
unless there is a strong moral reason to stop them, and I do not
think there is.
Chairman: Can I thank you, Simon Denegri
and Professor Gillon, for putting the other point of the case.
Thank you very much indeed.
1 Note by the witness: On reading the transcript
I realise that have misunderstood Dr Harris' question here and
thus answered inappropriately. In summary my view is that the
existing practice of creating and using for research, or indeed
for the production of medicines etc, animals that have human genes
in them is morally acceptable on the grounds that it is of potential
benefit, having only animals so used (and that of course nails
my colours to the mast of accepting properly controlled animal
research) infringes no one's autonomy, and, given the usual provisos
of distributive justice, can be done justly or fairly. Back