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Scientists call for even weaker protection of human life

5 May 2016


The scientists are calling for even weaker legal protection of human embryos

A group of researchers in the UK and the US are calling for the law to be relaxed so that they can experiment on human embryos beyond 14 days of development.

This immediately follows the news that scientists have grown human embryos further than they ever have before. The research was halted just before the embryos reached the legal limit of 14-days old.

International law

Law currently enshrined in at least a dozen countries, including the UK and the US, prohibits embryos from being grown in the lab for more than 14 days. Scientists had only been able to grow human embryos artificially for about half that time - up to the stage where the embryo would normally implant into the womb.

But they have now found a way to mimic the womb chemically to allow an embryo to continue developing until the two week stage, with a combination of a nutrient-rich medium and a structure the embryo can pretend to "implant" upon.

14-day limit

These most recent experiments have been deliberately ended at the 13-day stage, just before the legal limit but far later than any previous attempt - and the embryos themselves presumably destroyed, in a senseless waste of human life.

Now some scientists are calling for the 14-day limit to be extended even further, in order to continue their experiments on human embryos up to 14 days and beyond.

Of course, whether the limit is 7 days, 14 days or 21 days, there's no escaping the fact that from the moment of fertilisation, what scientists are experimenting on are tiny human beings.

'Laboratory guinea-pigs'

SPUC has responded to calls for the limit on human embryo research to be changed by strongly reminding scientists that test-tube embryos are human beings and should not be used as laboratory guinea-pigs at any stage of life.

Paul Tully, SPUC's General Secretary, said: "The early human embryo is incredibly complex and sensitive and has unique potential. It is a new human being, not just a ball of cells. Treating these embryos like guinea-pigs or disposable junk is demeaning to them and to us. The scientists proposing this may be highly educated, but they are morally blind. Every doctor and embryologist was once an embryo.

'Like a reckless driver'

"The approach of many scientists to ethics is unbelievably crass. As soon as technology enables them to break the rules, they call for the rules to be changed. We saw this in the case of mitochondrial disease last year. The law was changed to allow germ-line modification in humans. And earlier this year, the regulator gave permission for testing further genetic modification techniques.

"It is like a teenage driver calling for speed limits to be increased every time he buys a faster car. There is no real concern for those who might get hurt, only for their own ambitions. And like reckless drivers, the scientists involved leave a trail of destruction and death in their wake", concluded Mr Tully.

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