Widespread Support in UK for Move to Allow Conception Through Artificial Sperm, Though Some Protest

by Gopalan on  March 11, 2008 at 11:54 AM Medico Legal News
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Widespread Support in UK for Move to Allow Conception Through Artificial Sperm, Though Some Protest
Support is growing in the UK for a move to allow conception through artificial sperm, though some cry foul.

A cross-party group of MPs is calling for a relaxation of the ban on human pregnancy from so-called artificial gametes.

The group is led by Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris - dubbed "Dr Death" for his contentious views on euthanasia.

But the move has been branded the "ultimate incest" by critics because an individual's tissue could be used to create both sperm and eggs to make a human life, making them the father and mother of the child.

Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said she was considering the proposals, to be put forward in an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

Supporters claim it would transform IVF treatment and help those who are infertile, from cancer treatment or the menopause, to have children genetically related to them.

Artificial human sperm has been created in the laboratory using stem cells, but creating a pregnancy has been restricted to mice.

Seven pregnancies were successful but all died prematurely.

It is believed scientists are a decade away from creating a safe human pregnancy.

Yet Dr Harris said: "There is no good explanation for not allowing this option for people who have survived cancer and cannot have children.

"This is a good bill, but the government needs to recognise a few improvements are still needed - such as allowing the use of artificial gametes - before we can say the UK has rational and progressive regulation."

Scientists are demanding the amendment is backed because it would continue to fund research into the technique, reports Daily Mail.

It is expected to be backed by the British Medical Association, the Medical Research Council and the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Miss Primarolo told the Observer she was considering the move, adding there was a "powerful argument" that the new technique could help solve a shortage of sperm donors - but warned the Government would not rush into the decision.

She added: "The research can be done, and the issue is whether we legislate to say if it were successful it could proceed.

"There are some who are saying - and I think these are strong arguments - that it does raise some profound ethical questions."

Josephine Quintavalle of Comment on Reproductive Ethics said lifting the ban could lead to "the ultimate incest", and said it was "quite ridiculous" to rely on a technique still in its infancy.

She added: "If you turn the focus around from infertile adults and think about what you are creating, you always get the perspective you should adopt.

"I think we are becoming extremely selfish in our attitude to the children we produce."

Dr Harris's amendment would mean if the research was ready for human pregnancy, the lifting of the ban could be nodded through by MPs without debate and a vote in Parliament.

There would also be conditions banning an egg and sperm to come from a single individual, it is claimed.

Source: Medindia

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