Ban on foetal tissue in fertility treatment backed

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RESEARCH aimed at helping childless couples to become parents could be severely handicapped by an amendment to the Government's Criminal Justice Bill forced through in the early hours of yesterday morning, scientists said yesterday.

A group of fewer than 50 members agreed to the move by Dame Jill Knight to outlaw using eggs or tissue from human foetuses for fertility treatment. The decision, likely to be challenged in the House of Lords, sidelines the consultation process on the issue by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the Government's own advisory body.

Dame Jill's intentions were clear. She said: 'I want to send a message out to scientists that there is no point in spending any more time on research in that area or in messing about with aborted mouse eggs, rat eggs or anything similar.'

The amendment, passed just before 1 am, would prohibit the use of eggs taken from a human foetus in fertility treatment and, therefore, make research futile. It did not go to a division and had the support of Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health. Dame Jill was assisted in framing the amendment by the Department of Health.

Last night Mrs Bottomley said: 'The debate and the fact that Dame Jill Knight's amendment was passed without a vote shows strong feelings about this charged issue.

'I have made it clear that I share the widespread feelings of revulsion over the notion of creating a life from an aborted foetus. At the same time I have made clear my strong support for the HFEA and welcome their consultative document. I look forward to recieving its advice.'