MPs vote on animal-human embryos and saviour siblings

MPs are preparing to vote on key issues in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill as it passes through Committee stage in the House of Commons.

On Monday, MPs will vote on two key measures:

  • Allowing scientists to create embryos using material from animals and humans for use in research, and
  • allowing parents of sick children to deliberately select a genetically compatible embryo, so that tissues from the resulting sibling can be used to treat their older brother or sister.
  • 60 per cent of the public are opposed to the creation of animal-human embryos, according to recent opinion poll on the Bill conducted by polling company ComRes for The Christian Institute. Just over half agree that a saviour sibling would be denied a choice in how its body is used.

    Prime Minister Gordon Brown has allowed Labour MPs a free vote at Committee stage on these issues and one other – the attempt to remove the requirement for doctors to consider a child’s need for a father when providing IVF treatment. This is expected to be subject to a vote on Tuesday.

    The Bill as a whole, once amended in Committee, will be subject to a Labour whip at Report and Third Reading. The leaders of the other two major parties are allowing a free vote on all aspects of the Bill at all stages.

    Mr Brown has publicly expressed his support for the creation of animal-human embryos for research which he describes as an “inherently moral endeavour”.

    However, the proposal has come under fierce criticism from campaigners who point out that stem cell research using human embryos has yet to produce any medical treatments.

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