HSV Submissions – October 2006

Stem Cell Research: Lockhart Review

Submitted 1 October 2006 to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee, Parliament of Australia

In response to an invitation to comment on the Lockhart Review of stem cell research, HSV made the following main points to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee:

  1. We support all recommendations of the Lockhart Committee and are impressed by the quality of their deliberations.
  2. Humanists believe that the ethical problems arising from modern biotechnology should be resolved on the basis of secular morality, where the benefits of sentient beings are paramount.
  3. There is a moral and societal obligation to use research that has the potential to ease suffering.
  4. We strongly support the present ban on reproductive cloning of humans.
  5. We strongly support therapeutic cloning for its ability to provide multipotent stem cells genetically compatible with the recipient. This avoids the serious problem of organ or tissue rejection.
  6. We are encouraged in our attitude by the significant and widespread support for this research: AMA, Australian Academy of Science, (plus a list of 12 countries where it is legally carried out).
  7. A strict regulatory system to license and monitor this research is crucial in this area.
  8. Our restrictive laws in this research have already caused a steady loss of Australian experts in stem cells to centres overseas.
  9. On the moral status of an embryo: in our view, only an implanted, visible embryo has moral status. We point out a marked difference between an embryo created by the fusion of a sperm and an ovum and one that arises from a somatic cell nuclear transfer (as in therapeutic cloning). The latter is a single adult cell without the prospect of implantation and should have the status of that cell. An adult cell is not a moral agent.
  10. We find it difficult to reconcile the notion held by some of our legislators that an ’embryo’ arising from a single adult cell has a moral status and the right to the rule of sanctity of life, and the fact that our laws require the destruction of unused embryos in fertility programs.
  11. We are concerned about the gross misinformation about this research spread by its opponents, and we suggest a widespread public education campaign on this subject.
  12. The informed and carefully substantiated recommendations of the Lockhart Committee should be implemented in national legislation to ensure uniform research practices throughout all States.

Published: Victorian Humanist , October 2006: 4

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