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UK ethics council supports therapeutic cloning

10 April 2000
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 53

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has published a discussion paper recommending changes in UK regulations, which would allow research into stem cells derived from embryos. It also recommended lifting the ban on research into therapeutic cloning - the potential treatment of human diseases using tissues derived from cloned early embryos.

Embryo stem cell research would require a change in Schedule two of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990. Under the Act, embryo research is currently permitted only if it is concerned with infertility, miscarriage, contraception or congenital disease. The ethics council recommends that this is amended to include research 'for the purpose of developing tissues to treat diseases from derived embryonic stem cells (ES cells)'. It added that 'there are no compelling reasons' to allow the creation of additional embryos for such work, as long as there are sufficient donated embryos from IVF treatment.

The paper also says that the creation of embryos using nuclear transfer (therapeutic cloning) should be licensed, as it offers such 'significant potential medical benefits'. It ruled out reproductive cloning, saying it would be unacceptable for any such embryo to be placed in a uterus and allowed to develop.

The UK government is currently awaiting the findings of an expert panel on therapeutic cloning, led by Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson. The report is expected to recommend that  therapeutic cloning research is given the go-ahead, according to an article in the Daily Telegraph last week. 'It is too early to say whether it will work, but if the research is illegal we will never know', one member of the panel told the newspaper. But a Department of Health spokesman refused to confirm or deny the story, and told the BBC that the report had yet to be finished.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Ban on human spare parts cloning to be lifted
The Daily Telegraph |  3 April 2000
Ethics council backs cloning move
The Guardian |  6 April 2000
Ethics group supports cloning for transplants
The Daily Telegraph |  6 April 2000
UK to 'approve therapeutic cloning'
BBC News Online |  3 April 2000
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The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has begun a broad project exploring how legislators and members of the public respond to emerging biotechnologies. Calling for opinions and evidence, the Council has begun a preliminary consultation that seeks to identify common social, ethical, legal and policy issues raised by biotechnological developments...
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