Saturday, March 22, 2008

Some Easter thoughts

Tomorrow will be Easter Sunday and today it is snowing. Aggressively. It's a nice feeling, though, as if this really is the last throes of Winter before we can get on with some warmer and sunnier weather.

Perhaps because it is the Easter weekend, there has been a lot on the news about the Catholic church's displeasure that the PM is reluctant to allow his MPs a 'free vote' on a new embryology bill which would include measures licensing the creation of 'hybrid' embryos. (It looks now as if he might give in.) Anyway, I certainly don't share the Archbishop of Canterbury's certainty that such a bill would be a 'monstrous attack on human rights, human dignity and human life' (extracts from his sermon can be read here). But I did think it worth looking at the HFEA's consultation report, which seems to have been conspicuously absent from much of the discussion in the last couple of days. The full report can be read here, and it's rather interesting. In particular, it gives a clear and detailed account of the current state of scientific research and useful comparisons with similar legislation in other countries.

Also, Appendix D (p. 63ff.) gives data from written responses to the consultation. Now, I don't know who actually responds to these -- I imagine it is not an entirely representative slice of the population since people are more likely to reply if they have strong views one way or another and particularly wish to influence the process, but it's worth a look. Most respondents expressed the view that licensing such research would not be permissible and -- this is the most interesting bit for me -- many of them tried to offer a reason why.
The graph puts them in the following categories:

Life is sacred
'Yuck' responses
Human dignity
Slippery slope
Unconvinced by science
Safety risks
Potentiality of the embryo
Playing God

The first four tend to be the most popular. I'm not quite sure what to make of them, but I'm pretty sure that a 'Yuck' response can't really be a particularly persuasive argument against chaging scientific research (unless, I suppose, the people concerned were all emotivists...).

No comments: