Page 4, 18th August 1989

18th August 1989
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Page 4, 18th August 1989 — A deadly market in human embryos
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A deadly market in human embryos

PROFESSOR Lee remarks (August 4) upon the "profound respect" which ought to be given to the human fetus according to the Polkinghorne Review. Unfortunately this respect does not extend to the protection of life of the human being at the fetal stage.

Simon Lee remarks upon "what seems to be the valid analogy of accepting a kidney from a murdered teenager" but fails to see that what we may be involved in is the purchase of the human fetus from its executioner.

Valerie Riches Vice Chairman Association of Catholic Women

THE Polkinghorne Report (August 4) only considers the human embryo after implantation and after 14 days' development, thus avoiding any clash with Warnock recommendations. It states that women who consent to having an abortion can also give consent to the use of their aborted babies, and transplant teams can go ahead without a qualm provided they are independent of the abortion team. No wonder the Dept. of Health accepted this accommodating report and distributed it post haste to all Area Health Authorities without prior Parliamentary debate.

Although local ethical committees will have to approve of transplant projects, this report omits all references to scientific studies on fetal tissue transplants.

Dr Peter McCullagh's exhaustive study (The Foetus as Transplant Donor, John Wilegand, Jan 1987) makes instructive reading; a 1981 review of the work of the Royal Marsden Fetal Tissue Bank reveals 20 years of unsuccessful protocols (Lawler, S R., Journal of Clinical Pathology 34, 240 248); and Processor Roy Caine, FRS of Cambridge, speaking on the results of human fetal pancreas transplant, warned that the technique was "experimental research with no benefit to the patient . . . About one hundred have been performed to date, but not one has done any good." (Melbourne Sun, April 19 1985).

Will lay members of local ethical committees be given such reports? If not, how can they assess the value of research protocols?

Dr Peggy Norris Hon Secretary Doctors Who Respect Human Life SIMON Lee's article (August 4) and Hugh Fenton's letter (August 11) call for a response. The brief statement on "How far can Catholics support Imperfect Laws" was produced as a result of many enquiries and from various attempts in recent years to amend the Abortion legislation and was meant to allay some of the views expressed that Catholics could only support legislation which called for a complete ban on abortion.

Mr Fenton seems not to have realised that over recent years this committee has published two booklets directly relating to the Warnock committee and a further document on human infertility services and embryo research. We also, of course, submitted evidence to the Polkinghorne committee.

The Report itself quite clearly states that there must be no relationship between the team of medical people concerned with the abortion and those involved in the use of fetal tissue which was one of our recommendations.

More recently the committee has published a document on ante-natal tests which covers the question of amniocentesis and and other similar matters.

I hope this will clarify the position for your readers.

Mgr Michael Connelly

Catholic Bishops' Joint

Committee on Bio-Ethical Issues




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