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Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

A number of constituents have written to me about the above Bill. It strikes me that this is an issue upon which I have no formally established position. On that basis I would wish to try to hold a public meeting at which Constituents (and only constituents) can attend to express their views about the issue.

I am not particularly religious, but I am worried at the extent to which we as a society are moving away from valuing people. I am quite uncomfortable with the idea of creating hybrid embryos. However, I think this is something that warrants a public meeting.

Anyone who is a constituent who wishes to be invited should contact my constituency office leaving their name and address. (Office number 0121 722 3417)


Joe Otten said…
I'm not a constituent, but there is something bizarre in this debate.

Are we supposed to believer that advancing medicine to save lives and reduce suffering is "not valuing people"?

The idea of a stem cell as a person is absurd as the idea of a skin cell as a person. The notion of the sanctity of a tissue sample is unbiblical, a recent invention, arbitrary, ignorant, and evil.
PaulineG said…
Perhaps as a non-constituent I should keep out of this. I don't know. Apologies if I am out of order, but this Bill concerns me very much.

On Joe’s comments:

We need to be careful with language here. There seems to be no clear agreed definition of "personhood". It is a philosophical rather than a biological construct. I don't think many of those who have doubts about these proposals claim to know that the embryo is a person.

But many of us do believe that science and reason tell us clearly that the embryo is early human life. That fact alone provides sufficient grounds to object both to the deliberate destruction of a fully human embryo and to the generation of a mixed species embryo.

Neither is it correct to suggest, as Joe does, that objections are based on the assertion that either a stem cell or a skin cell is a person, or indeed a human life. That is clearly, in general, nonsense. (I say “in general” because the newly fertilised one-cell egg is both a special type of stem cell and an embryo. But it is by virtue as its status as an embryo that it should be protected and not because it is a stem cell.) The argument Joe attacks as "arbitrary, ignorant and evil" is therefore his own straw man.

Well done, Mr Hemmings, for setting up a public meeting. I wish you well with it.

May I respectfully suggest you read the Bill with the greatest care? There seems to be a deal of misinformation swimming around about the actual proposals under the Bill, some of which has, unfortunately, been accepted by MPs and fed back to constituents. For example, the BBC asserts that the mixing of animal and human gametes will remain outlawed. That is simply not true (see Clause 4).

There is a very good Sunday Times article on the Bill, ("An embryonic disaster?" 16th March edition) here:

Darren said…
Stem cell research holds a great deal of promise in the treatment of a wide range of diseases. There are several different sources of stem cells, but the best chance of defeating debilitating illnesses like Parkinson's Disease will only come if the medical research community has the widest possible range of tools at its disposal. This Bill helps with that.

The ethically right thing to do is to work to reduce the suffering of the elderly and others with diseases that may one day be treatable. Invoking works of fiction from the horror genre is extremely unhelpful when thousands of people will die waiting for the treatments that this Bill could make possible.
Joe Otten said…
Pauline, of course you may think a one-cell "embryo" is a kind of person, but please, at some point tell us why you think so. All I hear from the advocates of this position is the stamping of feet.

A one cell "embryo" is hardly distinguishable from half of a two-cell embryo - that would develop into two people if split and implanted separately. Should we "protect" all such cells by actively splitting them - to prevent one person being subsumed into another?

What if we invented the techonology to grow an embryo from a liver cell? Would it then become incumbent upon us to do this with every liver cell we could find? If we didn't we would be denying some person a chance to exist, right?

This is the sort of absurdity that follows from sanctifying a cell. And it necessarily dilutes the moral significance attached to real people and this is evil, and not just because of the promotion of disease.
Tim Weller said…
It sounds as though you are saying, John, that only the religious value people!

For the religious, their emphasis on the sanctity of life, means that:
1 they are more likely to support capital punishment;
2 in the USA the supporting of guns without controls;
3 no to abortion for the unborn but yes to killing the born in the War of Terrorism; and,
4 greater discomfort over contraception (the anti-life pill) than the non-religious! Population control seems to be more of a problem for the religious - "fill the earth and subdue it" from the Genesis creation story.

Tim Weller
john said…
I am not saying that. I am saying that there is a problem moving away from valuing life towards valuing knowledge.

It is very difficult to get any answers from the Department or Health about certain research projects.

The research accountability does not happen. Hence we need to draw tight boundaries.
Peter said…
John Hemming, Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley. John keeps constituents and others up to speed with his thoughts and news. John Hemming's understanding of the changes in Law.

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