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HFEA usurp democratic process by declaring animal-human hybrids legal

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Issued on behalf of the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship/Christian Concern for Our Nation (CCFON)

Press Release

For Immediate Release

5th September 2007

THE DECISION by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) that they have the legal remit to licence the creation of animal-human hybrid embryos for research purposes has been heavily criticised by the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship and other groups.

The watchdog today decided that, in principle, they could grant a licence to researchers who want to create animal-human hybrid embryos for the purpose of research. This decision comes only weeks after the Joint Committee considering the upcoming Human Tissue and Embryo (Draft) Bill recommended the issue should be put to a free vote in both Houses of Parliament. The HFEA are being criticised for making this decision before any parliamentary debate and vote has had the opportunity to take place, and there are concerns that they do not have the legal right to do so.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, Public Policy Director at the LCF said: "In making this decision the HFEA have completely usurped the democratic process. A Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament have just finished reviewing this very issue, having considered thousands of pages of evidence and hours of oral evidence in the process. Their conclusion was that this is a complex and controversial issue and should be put to a free vote in both Houses of Parliament. For an unelected body like the HFEA to declare, only weeks later, that they have made the decision themselves is a shocking abuse of power and should be of great concern to a society that believes in democracy protecting the rights of the people. The issue to be considered now is whether the HFEA have acted outside their legal remit in making their decision, and what action can be taken to ensure the democratic process is not abused in this way.”

In making their decision the HFEA discussed the status of cytoplasmic animal-human hybrids, and decided that they should be defined as human embryos. Ms Williams commented “a cytoplasmic hybrid would be created by taking an animal egg, such as a rabbit or cow’s egg, removing the nucleus and replacing it with human cells. To say that such an embryo is human, in the same way that an embryo created through IVF is human, is for most people a stretch of the imagination too far.”

“These decisions go to the very root of what it means to be human, and society needs to think very carefully about allowing decisions of this magnitude to take place without proper scrutiny and accountability.”


The HFEA are not expected to consider the two individual applications they have so far received until November, but some argue that they should either reconsider their position or agree not to consider any such licences until after parliament has had the opportunity to decide whether the licensing of hybrid embryos should be legal or not.

For more information about LCF's submission, visit www.lawcf.org

ENDS.


For further information:

Andrea Minichiello Williams 0771 259 1164, Paul Eddy (PR) 07932 019 430

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