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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 03 Hansard (Thursday, 3 April 2008) . . Page.. 946 ..


I take particular objection to clause 22A which would permit the licensed creation of hybrids containing human and animal genetic material. I also object to the proposition that we should authorise the creation of an embryo solely for the purposes of experimentation on the embryo and its ultimate destruction. I also object to human cloning as a method of creating such embryos.

The bill demands that we confront the question of whether in a civilised society the end justifies the means. We must question whether, in a field where the range of scientific techniques is evolving, cruder methods for obtaining stem cells should be allowed.

The important alternative, as I have touched on, is adult stem cell research. This is currently legal and is a more credible source of reprogrammable cells and potential cures. Adult stem cell research can involve the use of bone marrow, fat and other tissue extracts, including the recent advances in relation to skin cells. This does not involve the same ethical questions that we are being faced with today. I cannot accept that we should permit use of a whole human life as a disposable ingredient in scientific research.

I have three further concerns. Supporters of this bill are told that under the Lockhart model, which this bill implements, clones would just be used to create cures. This is not the full story. I would point out that under this bill human clones could be used in a laboratory for purposes that do not relate to finding cures. Clones could be legally used as a disposable ingredient in student training and clinical practice. Many of the licences are likely to be sought by IVF clinics, and the clinical practices they will be seeking to improve will not relate to finding cures but will relate to increasing the efficiency of IVF practice.

In 2002, parliamentarians were given the message by scientists that there would be sufficient surplus embryos from IVF donations so that scientists would never need to come back to parliaments asking MPs to approve cloning in the laboratory. There is already a legal source of human embryos that can be used for deriving embryonic stem cells and these are surplus IVF eggs that provide the ingredient this bill seeks to authorise by the legalising of cloning.

There is very serious scientific evidence showing that embryonic stem cells—and this has been touched on by other speakers—can lead to teratoma cancers when implanted in adult tissue environments. Obviously embryonic stem cells are designed to replicate aggressively and therefore tumour formation is a major outcome in animal experiments where embryonic stem cells have been transplanted into animals. There is strong evidence in the research that adult stem cells are the only type of stem cells suited to treating mature tissues. The asymmetric cell division of adult stem cells is stable and designed to achieve just continuous renewal of tissue, not massive replication of tissue.

Professor James Sherley, an expert from the United States, said in evidence put before the federal parliament:

The only possibility for developing new therapies based on embryonic stem cells would require that they first be converted into adult stem cells. However the conversion process is formidable compared to use of naturally occurring stem cells.


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