Letter to Ben Wallace M.P. Draft Human Tissue And Embryos Bill
Draft Human Tissue And Embryos Bill
Dear Mr Wallace,
I am anticipating the Draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill which is due to be publishrd in the Autumn.
Putting religion aside but considering our capacity for self-reflexion and abstract thought, it would appear that we are capable of operations that are intrinsically immaterial and that therefore the human exists on a level which is specifically different from all other living things. A proposal to create animal-human hybrids would seem to offend against human dignity. Research would point to the comparative success of applying adult stem cells; the production of animal-human embryos needs stronger justification than allowing research simply for its own sake.
Human cloning, banned by the UN, is already scientifically passe (New Scientist 2002), whilst the concept of 'saviour siblings' offends because the child is not created for its own sake but for its cord blood.
The 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryo Act recognised the child's need for a father. This seems to be dissipated in the new Bill - the child becoming less a person, with personal needs, and more an object.
I hope you will be able to agree that the status of the human transcends the curiosity of the microscope; that exclusively scientific criteria must give way to philosophical principles and that aspects of this Bill should be resisted.
STEM CELL RESEARCH - HYPE AND REALITY
Naive and wishful thinking runs rampant among embryonic stem cell proponents today. Euphoric notions that miraculous cures are imminent can be found in op-ed pages across the country and in political campaigns... The fact is that embryonic stem cells defy control. When injected into animals or cultivated in petri dishes, they frequently give rise to teratomas (nightmarish tumours, in which all sorts of tissue - skin, hair, teeth - are mixed together). These cells are designed to grow in the embryo, regulated by complex signals. The very plasticity which fascinates scientists makes them genetically unstable, hypertrophic and tumour-prone. They are far too dangerous for clinical use at any foreseeable time...
Campaigns for public funding of embryo research are bankrolled on a massive scale by the biotechnology industry. Embryo research is so unpromising that private venture capital avoids it. The practical, expeditious prospect of cures lies in non-embryonic stem cells which presents no ethical problems. These cells are far less subject to tumour formation and to immune rejection than embryonic stem cells are. The latter have never been used successfully to treat a single patient. Adult and umbilical cord-blood stem cells, by contrast, already are being used to treat more than 70 disorders.
Dear Mr Wallace,
I wrote to you in September '07 in anticipation of the Human Fertilisatiion and Embryology Bill. You generously replied that you would take my letter into account.
I have since discovered more confirmation of my assertion that the cloning of animal/human embryos is scientifically old hat.. I have noticed the appearance of 'inducible pluripotent stem cells' (IPSCs). Adult cells may be made to turn their clocks back. IPSCs are virtually identical to embryonic stem cells and produced by a far easier technique than cloning. It seems that scientists all over the world are turning to this approach. Nowhere else is the bizarre alternative of making cybrids generating any serious interest. It sems that certain scientists in Britain want the freedom to play and see what happens. The claim to open an avenue to therapeutic treatment is spurious. Embryos are so potent their cells defy control; they are far too dangerous for clinical use. "All the justifications for experiments using cybrids are based on the falsehood that they are vital for developing cures for dreadful diseases". (Neil Scolding, Burden Professor of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Bristol)
Dear Mr Wallace,
I have just received the voting lists on the committee Stage of the Bill. Your name appears among the Noes in the division on the amendment to ban 'Saviour Siblings'. Otherwise you seem to have abstained.
Since my last email about IPSCs - inducible pluripotent stem cells - i have noticed the letter published in The Times for May 16th from 16 scientists involved in stem cell research. In reference to the proposed licensing of both cybrids and hybrids they write; "All such proposals are highly speculative in comparison to established sources of human stem cells, and we remain unaware of any cogent evidence suggesting any might yield significant therapeutic dividend".
I have further confirmation that the HFE Bill was based on outdated science. In the 1980s it was claimed that the embryo was no more than 'a loose collection of cells' before the formation of the primitive streak at 14 days. Since 2000 embryology has been aware of the positional information possessed by the cells of the early embryo and this is established by the initial sperm entry within three minutes of penetration of the outer membrane so that from fertilisation the embryo is a closed system and so an individual with its future already mapped out. Warnock's 14 day limit has no scientific validity.
Philosophically I believe that the human individual is a person. The ability to smile after birth - or any othert post birth criterion - does not confer personality. What is born is the person formed in the womb and the dignity we accord the person must be the foundation of oir political life.
As a result of my education I base my assessment of personality on Aristotle. We all have different backgroounds. I am sorry that you do not appear to share my vision with the same clarity but I do appreciate the sincerity evidenced by your abstentions.
With good wishes,