MPs call for embryo change to allow 'saviour siblings'

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Indy Politics

Restrictions on the use of embryo technology to produce "saviour siblings" with parts that can be used to treat brothers or sisters should be eased, a group of peers and MPs will say today.

They will call on the Government to widen its Human Tissue and Embryos Bill to allow "saviour siblings"to be created where there is a "serious" risk to the life of a brother or sister, rather than only in cases where a condition is "life-threatening". If adopted by the Government, it could lead to more embryos being produced to use for treatment of existing siblings, and it is certain to lead to a battle in Parliament. The joint committee of Lords and MPs said umbilical cord blood stem cells could be used under the draft bill to treat an existing child suffering from a life-threatening condition. The committee acknowledged that some people were fundamentally opposed to all embryo testing because of the ethical problems it raised, saying a child was a "gift" not a "source of biological material".

But the committee concluded: "We recognise this is a delicate area. However, given the Government's apparent acceptance of the principle of selecting for 'saviour siblings' we do not understand why the practice is limited to 'life-threatening' conditions capable of treatment using umbilical cord blood stem cells."

They recommended the draft bill should be amended to substitute "serious" for "life threatening" in the conditions required to allow it.