This controversial bill comes up for voting in the House of Commons this week. Some of the things it is promoting is to allow the creation of ‘saviour’ siblings – children created for the specific purpose of being able to donate tissues or organs to an older sibling who is sick. Additionally, the bill proposes allowing the creation of human hybrid embryos, up to 50% human. This raises difficult moral questions of part-human entities.
MPs have been given a free vote on this issue, as it is an ‘issue of conscience’. This means they do not need to vote along party lines and are free to vote how they wish. It is not too late to get in touch with your MP to let them know your views. The website www.theyworkforyou.com can tell you who your MP is and how to get in touch with them.
Here is a draft letter written by a doctor friend of mine.
*** Urgent business: Embryology Bill ***
Thank you for your continued and conscientious work representing your constituents in Parliament.
I am writing regarding key votes in the Embryology Bill over the next couple of days. I believe it to be fortuitous that Labour MPs have been given a free vote on the key conscience issues and gives Labour MPs the opportunity to demonstrate that they are listening to their constituents at a difficult time politically. I write to request that you vote according to the views of the majority of the UK public with respect to the following four issues.
1. Human-animal embryos
The creation of such entities crosses a moral rubicon, the Bill as it stands permitting the creation of hybrids from 99% to 50% ‘human’. The critical issue is in the notion of an entity being ‘less than human’ and the risk to human dignity/rights that this category poses. Furthermore, the scientific value of such an ‘advance’ is suspect. All the medical benefits to date have come from ethically non-controversial adult stem cells, and the commercially-exciting possibility of hybrids will divert funds and attention from this proven fruitful avenue. Please vote against.
2. ‘Saviour siblings’
The main problem with this is the notion that a child is created as a means (to help a sibling) and not as an ends (for the child itself). This is bound to impact the ‘saviour’s’ sense of value. Other problems are those of either moral pressure to donate the relevant organ once old enough to consent (which will have health risks associated), or the prospect of taking tissue without any consent at all. Please vote against.
3. No need for a father
There is mounting evidence that the best environment in which to bring up a child is with its biological (male and female) parents, each having a unique contribution to make. The adverse social consequences of fatherlessness are widely acknowledged and this Bill sets out to exacerbate the situation. It also sends out a clear message that fathers are not important and will increase both the irresponsibility of some young men as regards producing progeny and decrease their sense of value as fathers. Crucial to the issue is the right of the child to have a father, which is more fundamental than that of the potential parent to have a child. Please vote in favour of the need for a father.
4. Abortion liberalisation
It is clearly ridiculous that in one part of a hospital doctors battle to save a 22 week old fetus born prematurely and in another part deliberately kill another. Social abortion is out of control in this country and needs to be more tightly regulated, not less. The legal limit should be brought down to 20 weeks or less for ‘social’ abortions. Women should be counselled about the adverse consequences of abortion (and the Royal Colleges recognise that there are many such effects, e.g. the risk of mental illness) and so be able to give fully informed consent to abortion. Please vote against liberalisation of abortion.
I realise that these are all controversial issues on which there is very little consensus. Speaking as a medical doctor keen to treat illnesses and relieve suffering, and as someone also trained in theology, I appreciate many of the nuances and the personal dilemmas. But a principle that I – and anyone else who appreciates the enormous moral significance of these issues – relies on is one of caution. Could I respectfully urge you to act similarly? If these embryos really are humans, how can we justify what we are doing to them? If we are approving the commodification of babies, the devaluing of human life, and encouraging in our society the breakdown of the family (well established as the basic and necessary socio-economic unit in all human civilisations that have flourished), how can these ever be costs worth the supposed benefits?
I urge you please to take this opportunity to vote as requested above on behalf of the majority of your constituents and in line with the moral norms that have held sway across cultures and for millennia, for the good of humanity.