The Truth

I have a disability, yet I still think it's wrong to destroy embryos .........

added 20/5/08

MPs voted yesterday to allow the creation of hybrid embryos and 'saviour siblings' as part of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

Conservative MP, Edward Leigh, tried to outlaw all hybrid embryos but was defeated by 336 votes to 176, a majority of 168.

He said that "we cannot and should not be spliced together with the animal kingdom" and ended with the words of Frankenstein's monster: "I the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on."

Sir Gerald Kaufman warned that the House was on a slippery slope: "If you permit the creation of a hybrid embryo now what will you permit next time?"

Mark Simmonds, the shadow health minister, while backing other types of embryo research, attempted to ban "true hybrids" but even more worrying, this was rejected by 286 votes to 223, a majority of 63.

I have a disability, yet I still think it's wrong to destroy embryos

by Alison Davis
The Guardian
Tuesday May 20 2008

Geraldine Peacock argues that the human fertilisation and embryology bill, part of which MPs voted on yesterday, offers her "hope" and claims that its provisions will provide cures for conditions such as Parkinson's disease, which she has (This bill gives me hope, May 12).

Significantly, she wishes that "some of the squabbling scientists and the scaremongers could spend a day inside my body and see if they still held the same views at the end of it. No research that offers the chance of release from this tyrant of an illness should be stopped."

I don't need to "step into the shoes" of a disabled person, because I have been disabled since before I was born. I have spina bifida, hydrocephalus, emphysema and osteoporosis, and use a wheelchair full time.

I run the No Less Human group for disabled people, their families and carers - campaigning for the equal right to life of all disabled people, from conception to natural death. I have researched the stem-cell issue and the truth is that we simply don't need to create - and then destroy - human or human-animal hybrid embryos in order to achieve successful treatments for disabling conditions.

Ms Peacock claimed that the creation and destruction of human-animal hybrid embryos is a "most promising development" which "has the potential to improve everyone's life". Apparently MPs accepted this view in voting yesterday to allow such research. I disagree.

I believe that each individual human life begins at the moment of fertilisation. I thus find it unacceptable that scientists should create human or partly human embryos, only to destroy them in the process of removing their stem cells. In the case of hybrids, the wrong is compounded by creating embryos whose status is at best uncertain. Are they human or are they not? No one knows.

Additionally, it is well known in scientific circles that embryonic and hybrid stem cells have yet to produce a single cure or treatment, and also that they have a tendency to give rise to cancerous tumours. Ethical sources of stem cells - such as umbilical cord, bone marrow, blood and even fat cells - do not appear to have any such serious problems, and are already being successfully used to treat disabling conditions.

For instance, an article in the Lancet noted that 50 years of clinical transplants of bone-marrow derived stem cells have shown "significant benefit" in heart attack patients - and trials are under way, or planned, for heart failure and stroke. Similar successes have been achieved using ethical sources of stem cells in patients with spinal cord injury, diabetes, Parkinson's disease and bone disease.

MPs have now voted to create and destroy human embryos and human-animal hybrids, which is wrong in itself and will also divert attention away from much more promising work using ethical sources of stem cells.

You don't need to step into my shoes to see that it is wrong to kill one group of human beings (albeit very young and small) for the putative benefit of another. I'm not a "scaremonger". But I am sad that MPs have, by yesterday's vote, shown their preference for hype over real hope

- Alison Davis is the founder of No Less Human and I strongly urge you to read and ponder her words here on the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children website.

She helps us to understand more about what humanity is all about and what a precious gift life is, regardless of our individual circumstances.