Spain has approved embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research as long as it takes place on already stored embryos left over from IVF treatments. The embryos will have to be donated for stem cell research by the parents.
Previously, in October 2001, the Spanish parliament voted against a proposal to allow the use of ES cells from embryos created originally for IVF. The proposal was put forward by by the opposition Socialist party, who wanted the government to change an existing law that made embryo research a serious offence. Earlier this month, the European Commission proposed to allow stem cell research using ES cells newly derived from stored human embryos to be funded by the European Union (EU). Countries where this type of ES cell research is prohibited by national laws would be ineligible for EU funding.
The new Spanish law allows existing frozen embryos - of which there are estimated to be tens of thousands in Spain - to be kept for patient's future use, donated for another infertile couple, or used in research. Spanish health minister Ana Pastor said that the law retains its essence that the purpose of creating embryos is for reproduction, but allows alternatives when this is not possible. She said the new law was 'respectful, because it gives couples the final word on the fate of the embryos that they currently have frozen, and it's an ethical solution because it doesn't permit the manipulation of embryos'.