BMA seeks to reject use of foetal eggs

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The Independent Online
THE MEDICAL Ethics Committee of the British Medical Association has decided that ovarian tissue from human foetuses should not be used to provide eggs for infertile women.

The committee had no objection to foetal tissue being used for research into fertility, but drew the line at the possibility of an unborn female foetus becoming the biological mother of a new generation.

The doctors also took the view that eggs could be donated after death by a woman, or a girl, who had previously given specific, competent permission to help with the shortage of eggs for infertile women. The decision must now go the the BMA Council and five other BMA committees representing GPs, consultants, junior hospital doctors, academics and public health doctors.

Whatever these groups decide - and the BMA hierarchy is anxious that they agree - the ethics committee's decision is bound to be influential.

The BMA debates are in response to the request from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority which asked for discussion among the public and interested groups after it became clear that researchers had reached a stage where they could try to produce eggs from the tissue of human female foetuses.

The long and 'strong' debate between members of the ethics committee has changed the position it first reached last September when it could see no ethical reason to ban use of foetal tissue in this way.

Dr Stuart Horner, the committee's chairman, said last night: 'What has changed between these two meetings is that we have had a chance to assess the issues in more detail and gain impressions about how other people think about this. There may be no logical reason but we believe there is a limit and we think our decisions have identified where that boundary should be drawn at present.'