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Orders of the Day — Human Fertilisation and Embryology

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:41 pm on 19th December 2000.

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Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 3:41 pm, 19th December 2000

Yes, our understanding of the current law is that the cell nuclear replacement technique is legal, but only under the strict regulations that apply, and only for purposes that are legitimate under the current law. I shall return to the matter later.

I do not believe that there are fundamentally new moral issues at stake that were not raised in the debate on the 1990 Act. If embryo research on infertility is acceptable, surely research for Parkinson's disease should be too? If embryo research for contraception is acceptable, surely research for muscular dystrophy should be too? That is especially true when the potential for sufferers from Parkinson's disease or muscular dystrophy might be so great.

We are not talking, either, about huge changes in the number of embryos that might be used. Between 1991 and 1998, 48,000 embryos were used in research after being donated by couples going through IVF treatment. A further 250,000 embryos created through IVF were simply destroyed. Given the nature of stem cells, scientists believe that very few embryos would actually be needed to extract the stem cells and generate the stem cell lines that could be used for many, many research projects.