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Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics Joint Response to the Human Tissue and Embryos (Draft) Bill (2007)




1. Introduction

1.1 We welcome the opportunity to respond to the Human Tissue and
Embryos (Draft) Bill: a Bill which raises profound issues of human
rights. These issues range from respect for human life to respect for
the value and meaning of parenthood, and for the long-term rights of
those conceived by gamete donation (e.g., their right to information
regarding their genetic relatives). They also concern the implications
of respect for parenthood on the creation of interspecies embryos, both
those that are certainly non-human, and those who may be human
beings.

2. Embryo experimentation, testing and sex selection practices

2.1 We are opposed in principle to many of the procedures covered by the
Draft Bill: procedures which we believe violate human rights, and thus
should not be licensed under any circumstances. That said, we would
very much welcome a ban on particular human rights abuses, even if
other abuses, no less unjust, are unfortunately licensed by the State.
An example would be a prohibition in primary legislation of the
creation of embryos from the ova of aborted human foetuses,[1] or of the
creation of embryos in greater numbers than will be immediately
transferred to the body of the mother. While we are opposed to all
'production' of embryos by a non-sexual act of manufacture, we would
urge a prohibition of at least the mass-manufacture of embryos, many
of whom will be discarded.

2.2 The destruction of human life is our most serious concern, particularly
when such destruction is not merely permitted, but effectively
mandated in relation to some human lives (for example, those
conceived from cloning or other novel technologies). It may be
objected that there is disagreement in our society as to when human
life begins. In fact, there is little disagreement among human
embryologists that most human lives are formed from sperm and ova,
and not (except for twins or clones) from other cells or groups of cells.
Where there is more disagreement is over what respect is due to
human lives at certain stages of development. Yet once a human
individual comes to be, we must surely acknowledge that individual's
objective interests in his or her welfare: interests which give rise to
certain rights. If children already born can have interests and rights

friendship, education - so, too, can unborn human beings. If an
individual can benefit from something, whether immediately or later in
life, that 'human good' is in his or her interests, with all that this
morally entails.

2.3 The concept of a 'permitted embryo' is one we reject: in particular, we
find offensive the application of quality control regulations providing
for the 'withdrawal from use of embryos that are intended for
human application but are known or suspected to be unsuitable for
such application.' (8A). Unfortunately, the mechanical process by
which IVF embryos are created tends to encourage a mindset
according to which they are seen as products and possessions of older
human beings. In view of the moral/symbolic inappropriateness of
IVF, it is all the more important to protect those conceived by IVF from

While we welcome the proposed ban on social sex selection of
embryos, discrimination of grounds of disability is no more acceptable
than discrimination on grounds of sex.

3. Surrogacy and ovum donation


3.1 There are various ways in which reproductive technologies can exploit
those affected, including ovum donors and 'surrogate mothers', who
are asked deliberately to become the mothers of children they will then
deliver to third parties. We are opposed to the facilitation of surrogacy
by permitting surrogacy organizations to advertise for, and pay 'expenses' to, surrogate mothers. This also applies to the recruitment
of ovum donors, who are also put at risk by drugs used to produce
multiple ova. Both surrogacy and ovum donation fragment human
motherhood, and should not be socially condoned.

4. Inter-species embryos

4.1 With many others, we are very disturbed by the proposed expansion of
conditions under which embryo research may be performed. In
particular, it is proposed to allow for the permission of research on human embryos - or what may be human embryos - created by the
combination of human and animal material.[2] In other cases, there may
be a real risk of creating a genuine, though damaged human embryo,
and the reasons against such experiments will be consequently even
more serious. If an embryo is conceived with a single animal gene, or
even if a human nucleus is placed in an animal ovum, this may be
compatible with the presence of a genuine human embryo following
the procedure. Such an embryo, in the latter case, would be a clone
deprived of all human parents, and would thus be still further
alienated from any possibility of parental protection.

4.2 We oppose the exclusion of interspecies embryos from the definition of
embryo in the Act. At very least, embryos with a preponderance of
human genes should be assumed to be embryonic human beings, and
should be treated accordingly. In particular, it should not be a crime to
transfer them, or other human embryos, to the body of the woman
providing the ovum, in cases where a human ovum has been used to
create them. Such a woman is the genetic mother, or partial mother, of
the embryo; should she have a change of heart and wish to carry her
child to term, she should not be prevented from doing so.

5. Prevention of Gestation

5.1 In the same way, while we oppose the permission the Draft Bill
envisages for germ-line interventions involving mitochondrial DNA
(3ZA (5)), we do not believe that embryos so created should be
discriminated against, or prevented from being transferred to the
ovum provider. The same applies to embryos subjected to other forms
of experimentation: the initial wrong done to the embryo cannot
justify the further wrong of ending his/her life.

5.2 Nor do we believe that there should be any time-limit for the storage
of embryos (as opposed to gametes), not least because when embryos
are unfrozen, the intention, and not merely the expectation, will often
be that the embryo die. In particular, it should not be possible, where
the genetic mother of an embryo wishes to have the embryo
transferred to her womb, for her partner and/or the genetic father to
veto the transfer. As the existing mother of the embryo, the woman
should be permitted to act as a mother in supporting her child and
carrying him or her to term.

6. Parenthood and rights of offspring

6.1 We strongly oppose the removal of the requirement to take account of
the child's need for a father in providing fertility services. That
children need fathers is a fact supported by millennia of human
experience; moreover, the testimony of those separated from their
genetic fathers, including those conceived from donor sperm,
underlines the importance of the genetic paternal relationship for a
healthy sense of identity.[3]

6.2 This proposed change in the law would have profoundly harmful
consequences, both for children and for wider society. Of course there
are many children whose family circumstances are such that they do
not know their father, and who nonetheless grow into healthy adults.
But this does not take away from the reality that to have a mother and
a father is a profound human need. Deliberately to sanction the
conception of children who will be deprived of both a genetic and a
social father is to place the wishes of adults above the human rights of
the child.

6.3 In the light of emerging evidence that donor-conceived adults can feel
profoundly damaged by their lack of contact with genetic parents and
other relatives, we find extremely rash the proposals of the Draft Bill
with regard both to who may receive fertility services, and who may
count as a parent of any child conceived. The Draft Bill's provisions
are radical, directing that while the ovum donor is not to be regarded
as a parent by that fact, the same-sex partner of a woman being treated
is to be regarded as a second parent - even if she dies before the
pregnancy begins. Moreover, the Draft Bill requires that no-one is to
count as the child's father where a second female parent has been
recognized. This involves a re-writing of history of the kind that adult
donor offspring very reasonably dispute. If a man who conceives a
child naturally is rightly counted by the law as a father, even if he had
no intention to conceive and was not married to the mother, a donor
who deliberately assists in the conception of a child should surely
count as a father, at least for the purpose of registering the birth, thus
facilitating later contact with the child.

6.4 We welcome the fact that identifying information is already available
to at least some donor-conceived people on their genetic relatives.
However, we would urge that this provision be extended to those
conceived before the change in the law, and that all donor-conceived
offspring should be advised at the age of 16 of their donor origin, and
of their legal rights, by the holders of their records. We would also
urge that the rights of donor-conceived people to information on their
siblings not be constricted by the fear that donor fathers will also be
identifiable if siblings are identified (31Z A (3)). While a wish for
privacy on the part of siblings - who were not, of course, party to the

believe, sufficient to prohibit the deliberate disclosure of information
concerning siblings. In the case of the gamete donor, unwillingness to
be identified should not preclude even direct identification of the
donor, given the fact that he deliberately engaged in donation, and
thus chose to do what in effect created some parental responsibilities to
those conceived.

7. Flaws in the Parliamentary process

7.1 Although some of the proposals in the Draft Bill have been the subject
of considerable public consultation and discussion, others have not. In
particular, Part 3 of the Draft Bill includes far-reaching proposals with
massive long-term implications for parenthood and family life in
society which have been barely debated at all. This section of the Draft
Bill includes proposals to remove the reference to the need of a child
for a father when considering the welfare of the potential child, and to

in relation to children born as a result of assisted reproduction.

7.2 These proposals should be the focus of extended and major public
consultation before these matters are presented to Parliament. We do
not believe that there has been anywhere near sufficient public
consultation on the matters in question. In our view, to proceed in
haste with regard to issues of such grave and long term importance is
both improper and dangerous. This is not a criticism of the scrutiny
committee process (which is not to say this process could not be
improved) but rather of the government's unwise rush to the statute
book.

20th June 2007


1. The Bill prohibits this only where the intention is to transfer embryos so created to
the body of a woman (3A).
2. For more detail on this, see the Linacre Centre's submission to the Science and
Technology Committee on hybrid and chimera embryos (available online at
http://www.linacre.org/hybridschimeras.pdf).
3. See e.g. Who Am I? Experiences of Donor Conception, Idreos Education Trust
2006; A.J. Turner and A. Coyle, 'What does it mean to be a donor offspring? The
identity experiences of adults conceived by donor insemination and the implications for counselling and therapy', Human Reproduction 15 (2000): 2041-2051; A.W.
Cordray, 'A survey of people conceived through donor insemination', DI Network
News 14 (1999/2000): 4-5; A. McWhinnie, 'Gamete donation and anonymity:
Should offspring from donated gametes continue to be denied knowledge of their
origins and antecedents?' Human Reproduction 16 (2001): 807-817.