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Old 04-06-2002, 05:44 AM   #1
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NSW Premier pushes Australia forward in embryonic stem cell research

Way to go Bob!

Stem-cell research goes ahead as PM gives way
By Mark Metherell and Deborah Smith
April 6 2002

A national law enabling the destruction of human embryos for stem-cell research got the go-ahead yesterday after a tense debate between the Prime Minister and the NSW Premier, Bob Carr.

While John Howard agreed to back down on his plan for rigid curbs, Mr Carr also retreated from a more liberalised approach after Mr Howard warned of a national division.

Their exchange came at the Council of Australian Governments which agreed to a national law opening the way for embryos produced in future to be used for research. The step had been resisted by Mr Howard partly because of fears it would result in "embryo farming".

The deal came after Mr Carr said the states would go it alone with legislation that would clash with the federal law.

Under the agreement, the Prime Minister's ban on use of embryos created after yesterday could be lifted after 12 months, pending an ethics committee report on rules to ensure embryos are not created in future purely for research.

Mr Howard's office made it clear last night restrictions could be reimposed if Parliament was not satisfied that safeguards were effective when the three-year sunset clause expired.

A federal source said there was "a strong exchange" between Mr Howard and Mr Carr, with Mr Howard saying Mr Carr's approach would scuttle chances of a national code.

Mr Howard also agreed yesterday to loosen his proposals covering the consent required by donor parents of embryos. Instead of researchers being required to get approval from donors for use of embryos for specific research, donors would now be required only to give general consent.

The new laws, which Mr Howard said would be "widely applauded", were generally welcomed by scientists.

Mr Carr said: "The people I've spoken to in wheelchairs will welcome the fact that research - cutting-edge research dealing with embryonic stem cells - can go ahead offering them as it does a chance of a breakthrough."

The Minister for Aging, Kevin Andrews, who argued in Cabinet for a ban on human embryo use, said he welcomed that "Mr Carr has backed away from his proposal of specifically creating embryos for destructive research".

A State Government spokesman said the proposal for therapeutic cloning may have been contained in legislation introduced last year. But this was not passed after the Carr Government decided to await the outcome of yesterday's talks.

The national legislation embodying yesterday's agreement, to be mirrored by legislation in all the states, will be subject to a conscience vote by members of both major parties.

It is expected to be passed but with opposition from a significant number of MPs.

The Workplace Relations Minister and conservative Catholic, Tony Abbott, said he was "not comfortable with experimentation on human embryos" and would probably vote against the embryo research.

Mr Howard praised premiers for the "co-operative spirit" demonstrating "the spirit of one nation, dare I say it, a united national approach".

Professor Martin Pera of the Monash Institute of Reproduction and Development said it was an "effective compromise" and within a year scientists would have a better idea about any restrictions on research from the ban on using future IVF embryos.

"I think, therefore I um..."

[This message has been edited by Angela Harlem (edited 04-06-2002).]

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Old 04-07-2002, 12:39 PM   #2
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Very complex area. Embryonic ethics are almost out of my league - but its kind of a postscript to the abortion debate.

The concept of harvesting a redundant foetus makes me feel ill though. What they have done will probably result in advances that save an awful lot of future lives though.
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