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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Diseases won't be cured by human animal embryos

5 September 2007

Diseases won't be cured by human-animal embryos Westminster, 5th September 2007 - The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has described as unethical the in-principle decision, expected to be announced today, by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to license the creation and killing of human-animal hybrid embryos. "The creation of hybrids is being promoted by those with interests in getting money from the government's stem cell research fund. Yet again, patients with degenerative diseases are being exploited. They and their families are being sold lies and false hope by the profit-hungry biotech industry", said Mr Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary. "This is a re-run of the 1990 situation, when parents of cystic fibrosis children, Parkinson's patients and others were led to believe that creating and killing human embryos was the only hope for treating such conditions. That was a lie, and now 17 years on, the same things is happening again. "There are two key ethical arguments against creating hybrid embryos. "Firstly, regarding embryos which have a preponderance of human DNA, like so-called 'cybrid' embryos, all the evidence suggests that these embryos are essentially human. Yet they will be cannibalised and killed for their stem-cells. The supposed benefit of such stem cells is being exaggerated. Extensive access to (purely human) embryonic stem cells over nearly 10 years has so far yielded limited information of scientific value, whereas good alternative sources of disease-specific adult stem cells already exist. "Secondly, there is the question of embryos with much more ambiguous mixtures of human and animal DNA. These embryos may have some human characteristics, and some animal traits. No-one can say what ethical status they will have or how they should be treated - but the HFEA and the government want them to be killed at an early stage. There is no feasible medical application of such embryos. "Much as we deplore the HFEA's decision today, this may soon be overtaken by new government legislation, the draft Human Tissue and Embryos bill, that seeks to legitimise and extend these practices. "Last month, SPUC launched a nationwide grassroots lobbying campaign against the government's draft Human Tissue and Embryos bill. So far half a million leaflets have been issued and the demand for them is huge. The Society has also issued a Briefing Paper on the draft bill setting out the ethical objections in detail. "This is not just a case of the 'yuk' factor - there are grave ethical and moral objections to this research and the way it is being promoted," concluded Mr Ozimic.

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