Lord Harries calls for embryo regulation: CEN 11.16.07 p 4. November 17, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Health/HIV-AIDS, House of Lords.
Speaking in the House of Lords on Nov 8 in response to the Queen’s Speech, Lord Harries stated that the rapidly increasing rate of scientific change required new rules and new thinking.
A member of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, Lord Harries said there had been a shift in “social attitudes” in the 17 years since Parliament adopted its first regulations.
“There was a time, as the old song put it, when love and marriage went together like a horse and carriage,” he noted.
“They went also with sex, pregnancy, birth and children being brought up by that couple. In the 1960s, with the advent of reliable contraception in the form of the pill, the link between sex and pregnancy was decisively broken.”
Scientific advances and changing social mores had served to “break the nexus of marriage, sex, pregnancy, birth and upbringing at every point,” Lord Harries said, noting that earlier this year “a single Japanese woman in her 60s, who had gone to America to have a donated embryo implanted in her womb, had given birth to a child.”
The “one moral principle” that had emerged in this process of scientific and social change had been “that of informed consent.”
However this led to the moral question of when might fertility treatments be refused?
Parliament must legislate in this field, setting forth the “wider, social reasons for particular requests not being granted,” Lord Harries said. “If such requests are to be refused, there must be good, convincing, grave reasons; otherwise, the principle of informed consent will remain the only and the overriding consideration.”
The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt. Rev. Tim Stevens told Parliament the Church of England remained “deeply cautious” about cloning and “especially about the creation of human/animal hybrids.” The Church would continue to press for “very tight controls on embryo experiments and for constant review of the licensing of research into hybrids to ensure that the claimed therapeutic benefits are the only rationale for continuing research programmes.”
Dr. Andrew Goddard, Tutor in Christian Ethics at Wycliffe Hall urged the Church to watch closely the debate. Writing on his blog “Theology & Ethics”, Dr. Goddard noted the possibilities created by scientific research in the life sciences held significant moral questions.
“The problem is certainly compounded when we replace these connections simply by an appeal to human will and desire, often cloaked in the language of rights,” he noted.