Human Embryo Experiments

Department of Health written question – answered on 5th February 2015.

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Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 24 February 2014 (WA 174–5), how many human embryos have been destroyed or experimented upon in the United Kingdom to date for which records are available; and how many of those have been generated by (1) somatic cell nuclear transfer, (2) pronuclear transfer, and (3) spindle-chromosomal complex transfer.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, as amended (1990 Act), provides that human embryos created by in vitro fertilisation that are not transferred to a patient, cannot be allowed to develop beyond a maximum of 14 days. At that stage, the embryos are about the size of the head of a pin.

The 1990 Act also provides that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) cannot licence research using human embryos unless the research is necessary or desirable for the purposes specified in the Act and the use of embryos is necessary.

The HFEA has advised that the current total number of embryos that were allowed to perish in each year since 1990 were:

Year

Embryos allowed to perish

1990

6

1991

8,164

1992

23,035

1993

27,466

1994

32,176

1995

37,270

1996

47,808

1997

48,024

1998

57,427

1999

77,269

2000

85,938

2001

88,039

2002

96,377

2003

96,309

2004

98,348

2005

100,547

2006

108,080

2007

116,342

2008

112,050

2009

132,536

2010

155,557

2011

168,613

2012

166,631

2013

169,644

As stated in the answer to the noble Lord of 24 February 2014 (WA 174-175), the HFEA does not hold data in its register of the number of embryos experimented upon.

The HFEA has also advised that it does not hold records of those embryos that have been generated by somatic cell nuclear transfer, pronuclear transfer, and spindle-chromosomal complex transfer.

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