BIOETHICS: by Richard EganNews Weekly
Embryo research and state laws
, March 22, 2003
The Parliaments of South Australia, Queensland and Victoria are now considering Bills which mirror the Commonwealth's Prohibition of Human Cloning Act and Research Involving Human Embryos Act.
Premier Carr, if he wins the election, will probably follow suit despite his advocacy of cloning human embryos for research.
South Australia has followed the Commonwealth by splitting the bill to prohibit cloning from the bill to allow destructive embryo research. Queensland and Victoria have combined bills. However Premier Beattie has now agreed to demands from prolife MPs, led by Labor's Ronan Lee, for the bill to be split to allow MPs to vote for a bill to prohibit human cloning but against a bill to allow research involving human embryos. Victorian prolife MPs are expected to demand that Premier Bracks follow suit and split the Victorian bill.
The South Australian and Victorian bills overturn existing State laws prohibiting destructive research on human embryos.
Do No Harm has called for two amendments to the bills. The first would protect employees who have a conscientious objection to such research from coercion or victimisation. The second would require any therapeutic, pharmaceutical or cosmetic product produced or tested using human embryos or embryonic stem cells to be clearly labelled to indicate this so that consumers can avoid such products.
Meanwhile the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has released a public draft of its Ethical guidelines on the use of reproductive technology in clinical practice and research
. Submissions are sought on the draft until March 28.
These guidelines will become regulations under the Research Involving Human Embryo Act and govern how consent may be obtained to use human embryos, and how the NHMRC Licensing Committee must determine applications for research that would harm or destroy human embryos.