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Research Involving Embryos Bill does not regulate stem cell use - 25 October 2002

A Senate Committee report released yesterday reveals that, despite the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002 being commonly known as the ‘Stem Cell Bill’, the Bill does not regulate the use of embryonic stem cells. In fact, the Bill opens the way to a wide variety of destructive human embryo research, including using live embryos in toxicology studies.

Even the Bill’s drafters, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), agree in the report that it “does not prohibit any uses of embryonic stem cell line[s]” (page 69, paragraph 4.25).

Spokesperson for the Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations, Mary Joseph, was commenting on the report Provisions of the Research Involving Embryos and Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill 2002, which was written by the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee.

In addition, the report acknowledges that the majority of embryo research allowed by the Bill is not related to deriving stem cells from human embryos and in fact includes:

  • Toxicology studies on live human embryos;
  • Testing new drugs on humans rather than animals;
  • Examining the effectiveness of new culture media used in assisted reproductive technology (ART) practice;
  • Better understanding embryonic development and fertilisation;
  • Training clinicians in micro-surgical ART techniques;
  • Examining gene expression patterns of developing embryos; and
  • Improving ART techniques (page 35, paragraph 2.131).

All these practices result in the death of the embryo.

This is very different from allowing a human embryo to die naturally. What matters ethically is not the outcome but how you reach the outcome. There is a very big difference between allowing a frozen embryo to thaw and to die naturally and thawing an embryo in a particular manner to allow it to develop to a stage where its stem cells can be extracted, killing the embryo (pages 40-41, paragraphs 3.24-3.25).

A copy of the report can be found at: http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/clac_ctte/emb_cloning/report/index.htm

Issued:    25 October 2002

Mary Joseph, spokesperson for the Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations, telephone 02 6253 3100.