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Ethical Rights

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Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cells

1.Introduction

1. This paper has been prepared as a submission to the Legislation Review of Australia’s Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2002 (PHC Act) and the Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002 (RIHE Act). The Legislation Review Committee has been asked to review the scope and operation of the two Acts, taking into account some statutory requirements, including community standards, additional matters, and to consult and report appropriately, amongst other things.

2. This paper is a submission in my personal capacity. I previously made a submission in my personal capacity to the Inquiry into the Scientific, Ethical and Regulatory Aspects of Human Cloning by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs (the report of which shall be referred to as the Andrews Report), which was asked to review the Report of the Australian Health Ethics Committee (AHEC) on ‘Scientific, Ethical and Regulatory Considerations Relevant to Cloning of Human Beings’.

3. This paper is primarily concerned with addressing the Review’s terms of reference with respect to community standards, particularly the ethics of human cloning (reproductive and non-reproductive), but also the ethics of the use of human embryos in research.

4. I appreciate that the Review’s objective is not to reconsider the rationale for the legislation per se. I would assert that the community’s understanding of human cloning issues and embryo research issues has evolved since 2002, and that many would now appreciate that the arguments originally proposed against cloning and embryonic stem cell research are no longer appropriate in their application. As I note in Section 6, application of some community views (including those reflected in the current legislation) may result in significant policy inconsistencies, forgone opportunities to eliminate disease, and a situation that would label some children as unethical and deprive Australians of beneficial treatments for medical conditions and diseases.

5. I have written this submission to alert the Review to important reasons why there are problems with the PHC and RIHE Acts, and to inform the Review that although community standards are evolving, the community is still unaware of some issues, and that by being better informed the community is more likely to develop appropriate standards.

6. Sections 2 and 3 examine three principles that should be used in developing a framework for cloning policy (reproductive and non-reproductive) and research involving human embryos. Section 4 considers the arguments against reproductive cloning in the Andrews Report (which established the framework for the PHC and RIHE Acts), and rebuts them all except for the safety argument. Section 5 considers some arguments for human reproductive cloning. Section 6 considers some related arguments: the policy inconsistency that currently exists, the matters of prohibited practices under the PHC Act, and the consequences of bans on cloning and research involving human embryos.

7. I am available to expand on my analysis to the Review if required.

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