Prelate Blasts Embryology Bill for Removing Consent

Last-Minute Amendment Passed Without Debate

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CARDIFF, Wales, OCT. 28, 2008 ( A British archbishop is expressing alarm that a last-minute amendment to a U.K. embryology bill allows for tissue to be used for experimentation without donor consent.

In a statement today, Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff said it is «deeply disturbing that the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill will allow the creation of human animal hybrid embryos and cloned human embryos.» But, he added, «To make matters worse the government is now proposing that this can happen without the consent of the person whose cells are used.»

According to an article in the Telegraph from before last Wednesday’s House of Commons approval of the bill, «a government amendment, agreed after the main parliamentary debates, would allow tissue to be used from people who lack the ‘mental capacity’ to give consent, children whose parents give permission, and anyone who has previously donated samples to hospitals for medical research but can no longer be traced.»

Archbishop Smith affirmed that to «use someone’s gametes or cells to create a human embryo without their consent is an infringement of basic human rights.»

«It is an affront to human dignity,» he added. «It shows disregard for the consciences of people who may not want their cells to be used to create an embryo. It is appalling that scientists could take cells from vulnerable people who cannot consent and use them in this way.

«There has been no public consultation on this question. Indeed even the House of Commons have not had an opportunity to debate this, so short was the time given to the third reading of the bill.

«People have not been given a chance to say what they think of scientists using their cells, their DNA, without being asked, to make human animal hybrids.»

The Cardiff prelate affirmed that when this situation comes to light people «will rightly react.»

«Who can trust scientists, if they can do this with your cells without asking you? This is neither ethical nor beneficial for science. It will harm public confidence in science and will thereby harm the progress of science,» he said.

The archbishop urged the House of Lords to reject the amendment and «to restore to the law the strict requirement for effective consent before human or human admixed embryos are created.»

With a vote of 355-129, the bill passed through its third reading Wednesday in the House of Commons. The bill passed through the House of Lords earlier this year. After a debate on the amendments introduced by the House of Commons, including this one on consent, the bill could become law by November.

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