Public to have a say on use of aborted ovaries

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The Independent Online
THE PUBLIC are to be asked for the first time whether using ovaries of aborted foetuses or ovarian tissue from corpses is an acceptable way of providing eggs for infertile women or whether it would be 'breaking a natural law of biology'.

The chairman of the body that controls and regulates fertility clinics and research said yesterday that techniques for ripening immature eggs or grafting ovarian tissue could be perfected in two to three years. But they will not be used without permission and statutory licences.

No woman will be made pregnant through the use of eggs from aborted foetuses unless the procedure is socially acceptable, said Professor Sir Colin Campbell of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. He was speaking at the launch of the authority's consultation document Donated Ovarian Tissue in Embryo Research & Assisted Conception.

It sets out the issues and provides five months for comment and debate before the authority makes recommendations. Anyone can send for a free copy of the report, and then write in with comments. The 18 members are predominately non-medical and include the actress Penelope Keith and the Bishop of Edinburgh.

Sir Colin said: 'There is potential here for many women to benefit from treatment that would otherwise might not be available to them. It would enable them to have children when they would otherwise remain childless.'

However, the authority recognised the 'repugnance' and 'alarm' people may feel.

Summarising the critical issues of the report, Sir Colin said the consideration that applies to an adult woman volunteering her ovarian tissue are different from concerns that tissue might be obtained from aborted foetuses.

He revealed that authority members had reacted with 'unease, distaste and surprise' when they heard about the potential treatment, 20 months ago. Since then their initial emotional reaction had given way to calmness and reflection. But he would not be drawn on revealing his opinion. It was up to society to decide and he looked forward to an open


The 10-page report deals with scientific issues, social and moral questions and consent. A decision on ovarian tissue from foetuses may turn on the problem of consent.

Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, welcomed the document, saying: 'The consultation period will give the public and professional interests time to consider all aspects of this complex and sensitive area.'

Dawn Primarolo, for Labour, welcomed the 'level- headed' report.