Ministers to ‘cave in’ over embryo research consent

The Government has been accused of backing down under pressure from scientists who want to be allowed to conduct embryo experiments using human tissues without the donor’s permission.

Scientists want to make use of current stocks of human tissue donated in the past. They want to use them to develop embryos for research. The embryos would then be destroyed.

But some donors didn’t give express consent for some of the research which scientists now want to conduct. Some of the procedures were not developed when the tissue was donated.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, currently going through Parliament, would prevent scientists from using donated tissues for embryonic research without the express consent of the donor.

In January some scientists wrote a letter to The Times arguing that such a measure would be a hindrance to the pursuit of new treatments and discoveries.

In response the Department of Health has written a letter to Peers in the House of Lords saying, “On balance the Government has taken the view that the evidence collected is sufficiently strong to justify a limited exception to the express consent for existing stocks of cells and cell lines.”

However, the Department also says that such an exception must be subject to further consideration and safeguards. The matter is likely to arise when the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill comes before the House of Commons.

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