The stances of countries on embryo and cloning research?
In recent weeks, countries all over the globe have re-evaluated their current laws on cloning. This follows a Conference at the US National Academy of Sciences where Severino Antinori and others revealed their plans that they intend to produce human clones as a way of helping infertile couples to have children.
In legislative terms, it is very important to make a distinction between the two types of cloning - Therapeutic cloning and Reproductive cloning. The term 'human cloning' or just 'cloning' is misleading because the two types are very different in practice and in how they are viewed.
Britain is on the verge of passing the most liberal law on therapeutic cloning in the world. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (HFEA) 1990 controls all work done on human embryos, allowing research into infertility, miscarriage, contraception and genetic disease and in-vitro fertilisation. This law is already considered to be liberal by some, but will be extended to allow therapeutic cloning. Although the HFEA regulations on embryos effectively outlaws human reproductive cloning already, the British government are also introducing a specific law for this purpose.
The USA has been under the spotlight after hosting a conference at its National Academy of Sciences. President George W. Bush announced that the federal government would begin to pay for a limited amount of research on stem cells from human embryos. He also said federal grants could be used to conduct studies solely on stem cells that have been harvested from embryos left over at fertility clinics but he prohibited subsidies of research that involved the creation or destruction of additional embryos. This follows the bill that was passed by the House of Representatives that bans the creation of cloned human embryos for any purpose, whether to make cloned babies or to produce potentially therapeutic stem cells. The bill would also prohibit the importation of any medical treatments created abroad from cloned human embryo cells.
France's Health Minister, Kouchner, has called for the creation of an international ethical tribunal to punish countries that allow human cloning. Dr Kouchner is one of the leading voices of opposition to research that could produce a cloned baby within the next few years. Proposals drawn up by the French and German foreign ministers are set out in a letter to Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General. They call for a convention against human cloning for reproductive purposes and a law to ban the practice.
German politicians have criticised Britain's 'liberal' stance and Chancellor Schroeder says the potential of stem cells in medicine must be investigated before any relaxation of the current ban on the use of ESCs can be considered.
Italy - the Vatican has inevitably been against embryo research and yet Severino Antinori is Italian. Furthermore, the Italian Health Minister is in favour of the use of stem cells, yet draws the line at human cloning.
Information taken from Focus magazine, August 2001
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