French Assembly Opposes Reproductive Cloning

But Favors Research with «Spare» Embryos

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PARIS, JAN. 18, 2002 ( Deputies in the French National Assembly have tentatively backed legislation to criminalize reproductive cloning, but to allow research on «spare» human embryos.

Principal points of the legislation approved late Thursday are as follows:

–It would prohibit cloning that seeks to reproduce genetically identical human beings, animals or vegetables. Reproductive cloning would be a crime punishable by 20 years in prison.

–Research with «spare» embryos: The draft law allows research with «spare» embryos (not used by couples who choose in vitro fertilization) to create stem cells, with the provision that parents sign a written agreement.

–The draft law provides for the possibility of implantation of an embryo conceived (by in vitro fertilization) after the death of the father. These embryos may be implanted in the uterus of the widow with the provision that her husband gave a written agreement.

They would have to be used in a space of time that varies from six to 18 months after the father´s death. Filiation and the child´s inheritance rights are, in this case, similar to those of a posthumous child.

–The deputies reintroduced by unanimity the prohibition to patent the living — namely, to make a part of the human body, including a gene, «an invention that can be patented.»

This disposition had been deleted from the bioethics legislation because of the existence of a European directive on the matter. With this vote, the deputies wished to express that «this directive cannot be transferred in its present form to French law,» according to the text of the amendment.

The draft, which revises the 1994 law on this same topic, will be solemnly voted on next Tuesday. The Senate will unlikely be able to finish action on the legislation before the present legislature ends Feb. 22.

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