Stem Cell Inquiry reports

The report of the Senate Committee examining the stem cell legislation is released today, after three public hearings and nearly 500 public submissions. It is hard to know how many Senators and MPs are still undecided on the issue, but those that are will probably draw on the report for information to some extent.

I was talking with someone from another party last week who assessed the Senate numbers at about 42-34 in favour. However, it’s hard to be sure. Most people would be factoring me as a Yes, but while I’m leaning that way I haven’t made up my mind yet. There may be a number of others in that position, or none.

There are a few aspects I am seeking more information on first, and I haven’t yet made my mind up about the use of animal eggs to produce embryos.

I am also keen to hear during the Senate debate the view of the proponent of the legislation as to what the ethical rationale is for allowing some types of embryos to be used for experimentation, but not others.

Debate will start on the legislation in the Senate next week.

You can listen to some speeches for and against stem cell changes in mp3 format by clicking on this link.

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35 Comments

  1. Have you had a briefing from any of the Lockhart Committee? They are very good at explaining the details. Loane Skene also gave a good outline of her reasoning in relation to the treatment of different types of embryos on the first day of hearings – she actually went in thinking we should allow the creation of embryos with egg and sperm for research and had her mind changed throughout the review.

    As for the use of animal eggs, may I ask whether it’s an ethical or scientific problem you have? I hope that if it’s a scientific question that you would allow researchers to determine whether or not it’s effective. As for ethical reasons – IVF labs have been “fertilising” animal eggs with human sperm to test its efficacy for a long time now.

    None of the recommendations involve a “quantum leap” of ethics.

  2. Thanks Anna –

    I went to a talk by Loane Skene a few weeks ago. I was very impressed by her candour and humbleness, as well as her knowledge. I prefer reason to tub-thumping proselytising on all sides of this debate (and most debates), and her approach appealed to me. I also was ‘lucky’ enough to have my plane severely delayed in Canberra a week ago, which gave me the chance to talk to her and another member of the Lockhart Committee at some length, which addressed some of my questions.

    One of my concerns relates to the Lockhart Committee’s reasoning to allow embryos to be created for research through SCNT, but not allow them to be created for research through egg and sperm method. I am uneasy with the criteria used to give one a greater ‘value’ than the other – that is that one has a greater “social or relational significance” than the other. One in, all in makes more sense to me logically and ethically. It is not so much what the consequences of such reasoning might be for stem cell research, but rather what the consequences might be if the principle of social or relational significance becomes a accepted as a criteria in other areas of law.

    As for animal eggs, my concern isn’t scientific. I wouldn’t dream of putting my scientific judgement up alongside some of these people – which is why I won’t buy into the ‘adult stem cells can do it all’ argument – there’s a wide enough number of scientists who believe there is a good possibility to the contrary, and the research quest should sort this out (assuming we as a society deem such research to be lawful in the first place).

  3. This is what she had to say about the differences:

    The recommendation that we made that has attracted most publicity is with regard to somatic cell nuclear transfer embryos. I should emphasise here that, although we recommended that scientists should be permitted to create an embryo of this kind for research, we thought in taking this line we were adopting a middle-line approach. The reason for this is that we recommended that it should not be permitted to create what we call the sperm-egg embryo, which combines the gametes, the sperm and egg, of the couple. We took the view that a somatic cell nuclear transfer embryo is different, that it is more like growing bodily tissue to treat a person with some sort of medical disorder.

    and

    My view probably would have been more liberal than the view that you see in the report, so I changed my mind too. I changed my mind on the basis of the evidence that was put to us. At the beginning I would have said it was all right to create a sperm egg embryo for research as it in the United States and the UK. I found listening to what people told us in fertility programs and the way they regarded their embryos when they were created in fertility programs made me change my mind.

  4. Yes, I’ve heard/seen that view. Ironically, I would feel much more comfortable if the Lockhart Committee had supported research on sperm-egg embryos as well. I am uncomfortable with the the notion that something can be be deemed to be more expendable due to it having a weaker social or relational significance.

    I don’t think it is appropriate for me to just insert my own personal ethics as ones that everyone else should have to live by – otherwise I would have moved to ban meat eating, for starters – but I also think I should think through what the inferred adoption of an ethical principle in a law might mean for our society (as well as the inferred ignoring of an ethical principle).

    Anyway, I’m still thinking through it all – all (furphy-free) viewpoints welcome.

  5. Personally I agree with you and have no problem with the idea of creating egg-sperm embryos for research, although I do appreciate the view that embryos created through SCNT are more like an extension of the person whose cells were used to make it rather than a unique individual.

    Given we allow too many embryos to be created for IVF – ie that we allow embryos to be created in the knowledge they will be destroyed (by law) – I find it strange that we think that’s a more noble goal than research into life-saving cures.

  6. Senator, this is an email I have just sent to my own representatives:

    “Around half the Australian population is against changing the current laws on human cloning. There is no mandate to change this law.

    I am opposed to this legislation, since SCNT creates a new human life, which would develop normally in the womb if it were given the chance.

    A human being is still a human being, no matter how small. When not all human life is sacred, then no human life is sacred.

    Compassion for people with diseases is no reason to destroy other people.

    Just as we cannot terminate a gravely ill person’s life to harvest their organs for transplants, so we should not terminate the life of an unborn person in the hope that it might possibly provide a cure for someone who has been born.

    Please think of the good of all Australians – including the smallest.”
    ————————————-

    Senator, you have said that a 14 day old embryo is not human, but many people think it is. If you have time, you may consider reading this article.

    “Abortion is legal. Infanticide is illegal. If a woman wishes to terminate her pregnancy at any time before birth, she is said to have “exercised her right” to do so. If she wishes to terminate her child’s life at any time after birth, she is viewed as a killer and prosecuted as such. Why the difference?

    The answer must be that there is a quality or set of qualities (let’s call it “x”) that all newborns have and no preborn infants have that makes newborns worthy of protection by the law and preborn infants unworthy of such protection.

    So, the question is: What is x?

    It is important to note that all pro-choice arguments assume that there is an x. All talk about “reproductive freedom,” “freedom of choice,” and “the right to privacy” presupposes that a newborn has something about him that makes him substantially different from a fetus and thus worthy of legal protection.”

  7. Louise

    I understand your view, but we legalised research on surplus IVF embryos in 2002. I voted in favour of that at the time and I haven’t seen reason to change my view (not that it would matter much if I did, as the legislation before us doesn’t seek to reverse that decision).

    Nor is the legislation about abortion. As medical advances are enabling a foetus to survive outside the womb at an earlier and earlier age, I think there are very difficult ethical issues our society should spend some more energy confronting. However, at present our society and laws allow abortion in certain circumstances up to quite an advanced stage, and this legislation does not really go to that argument in my view.

    The legislation before us is not really about whether embryonic stem cell research is bad. It is about (among other things) whether to allow an embryo to be created through cloning techniques (SCNT), and a related principle about whether it should be permitted to create an embryo solely for the purpose of using it for research, as opposed to using it once it is no longer wanted for IVF/ART purposes. That to me raises different ethical questions compared to whether research should be allowed on any embryo in any circumstances (which again has already been permitted on some embryos since 2002 – in effect those that were created for other purposes initially but now face no future at all other than an immediate demise).

    However, the proposal that some could be deemed expendable and others not on the basis of their ‘social and relational significance’ continues to concern me.

  8. For anyone who is interested in knowing, I’ve decided to vote for the 2nd Reading of the legislation (which will probably occur sometime on Tuesday), so that the various components of the legislation and any proposed amendments (of which there are bound to be some) can be debated and considered.

    However, I have yet to decide whether I will vote for it on the 3rd Reading (the final vote which adopts a piece of legislation). This is partly because I want to see what the final form of the legislaiton is, as it may be amended along the way, (which could make it either more or less acceptable to me). Also, I want to hear from some Senators what their reasoning is behind what they are proposing either in the legislation or in amendments before I decide how wise a particular course of action is.

    I don’t wish to sound overly portentous, but whilst the main task before us is to decide whether or not to adopt a law, we are also giving a strong indication about what the boundaries of certain ethical principle are or aren’t acceptable in our community. This can affect community and political views in wider ways on quite different issues down the track.

  9. The reason a lot of spare embryos are created for ART/IVF programs is the incredible cost of treatment – along with the degree of discomfort and inconvenience for the mother.

    There are always going to be spare embryos that no one wants. Whether we like it or not, they can’t just sit in the freezer until the end of time – especially after couples have had multiple births.

    Like many others, I’m far less happy with the deliberate creation of human embryos for research.

    Use of adult stem cells, SCNT, discarded embryos and the byproducts of abortion all rate streets ahead of an idea like that for me.

    Loane Skene sounds as if she’s in touch with the ethical differences between SCNT (therapeutic cloning) and the use of deliberately created human embryos.

    I think the differences are quite easy to see.

    I once belonged to an IVF support group. I wouldn’t like to see access to donor eggs or embryos become more difficult for infertile couples.

  10. I know this debate is not about abortion, Senator, but the reason we should not take this further is precisely because there is no reason to think of an embryo as anything other than human.

    We have already gone too far in this direction. I put up the link about abortion only because it offers reasons to counter your own assertion that a 14 day embryo is not human.

    If I could be persuaded that it really isn’t a human, I would support embryonic stem cell research and human cloning etc too.

    I think there are very difficult ethical issues our society should spend some more energy confronting.

    You are right, Senator, but surely any advancement down the embryos-as-research-material path will make it more difficult to confront these issues.

    Finally, apart from Coral’s post in the other thread, I haven’t seen much reported about the recent stem-cell breakthrough achieved using cells from umbilical cords.

    I find that in itself very disturbing given the “therapeutic” angle in *this* whole debate.

  11. i impore you not to allow this bill through. It is fine for a committee to give their point of view, but you and I both know this issue is worlds a way from politics. Most especially the politics with regard to money and the fact that Australia have now got odd bed fellows in terms of countries as trading partners. If we had an Australia Constitution that prevented laws to be made regarding foreign investment of embryo’s then I would have no trouble with this. We don’t s51(xx) allows commonwealth plenary powers in this case. Therefore I do have a problem and so I believe should you.

  12. Louise:

    I have a friend with terminal bone cancer. She has metastases from two previous battles with breast cancer.

    Doctors have tried to use adult stem cells on some women in her predicament – with very limited success. I think this is why scientists are determined to try other alternatives.

    I have previously mentioned scientists working with foetal calf blood, which dates back a very long time. I think their work has been instrumental in increasing the survival rate of children with leukaemia.

    I have prepared material for publication in the world’s most eminent medical journals – provided by several research teams.

    The general public probably has very little knowledge of the length of time it takes to come up with solutions or how much painstaking work goes into them.

    Scientists are still trying to make some breakthroughs with stem cell research. They can’t provide us with the successes we are looking for, unless we give them the “tools” they need to work with.

  13. Matthew Smith:

    Could you please explain more about your concerns, so we will all know what the problem is?

  14. Hi Andrew,

    I think that an focus must be kept on the potential benefits of this research. It has the potential to alleviate an incredible amount of human pain and suffering.

    I have not researched it enough to comment in any greated detail.

  15. #8 ANDREW
    4th November
    “…We are giving a strong indication of what the boundary of certain ethical principle are or aren’t acceptable in our society. This can affect political and commnity views in wider ways on quite different issues down the track.”

    It seems to me, that despite protestations to the contrary, you were well aware of what was really being proposed and what was at stake.

    This debate was never really about the hypothetical cures that may or may not be achieved from embryonic stem cell research, whether cloned or otherwise.

    Embryonic research had already been agreed to by you and the other Senators and MP’s who voted to allow research and experimentation on excess IVF embryos, 4years ago.

    The Lockhart Committee was supposed to assess the results of that research.

    It’s impossible to assess nothing, because nothing has resulted from embryonic stem cell research.

    This debate was about whether we would allow the creation of humans, (cloned or otherwise is a red herring, beacause both are human), purely to be used for research, experimentation and destruction in the hope that they may help another human.

    This bill was asking you and the other Senators to accept the principle that one human life can be deemed of less intrinsic value than another.

    You, and the other Senators who voted for this Bill, opted unfortunately, to accept, as John Martin, emeritus professor of medicine at Melbourne university said “the questionable utilitarian principle that the end justifies the means”.

    As you so rightly stated, the implications of that decision for politicians and the community are huge.

    Let us hope that the Federal MP’s will realise the gravity of a decision which ignores the ehical dilemma of legislating that one human life is expendable if it can be deemed to have less value than another.

    What consequences does that impose for our Society. Who else will be deemed expendable?
    Who will decide? On what principle will those decisions be made?

  16. Julianne

    Where did I ever say I wasn’t aware of what is proposed by this legislation and what is at stake?!

    You may like to think that “This debate was never really about the hypothetical cures that may or may not be achieved from embryonic stem cell research, whether cloned or otherwise”

    Unfortunately, that is a very big part of what the debate is about. Just mindlessly insisting that it’s not about this does not make it so. If you read the many speeches made in the Senate, you will see this is a big factor for many people in the Parliament, as it is for many in the community.

    It is a simple fact, however unpleasant and unacceptable you may find it, that our society places a lower legal and ethical value on embryos than it does on babies soon before or once they are born.

    It should be reasonably clear from the many entries I’ve done on this topic that I was looking for months for reasoned arguments from those opposed to this legislation that weren’t just re-running the abortion debate or floating absurd furphies about rabbit-man and the like, let alone people who just kept denying the science and pretending that embryonic stem cell research offers nothing (thus conveniently avoiding facing the real ethical challenge of having to justify why people should be denied the prospect of better treatments and cures)

    It was hard to find such voices, although Frank Brennan was one.

    If many of those who opposed this legislation had at least accepted the basic truth that this area of research has genuine potential, instead of resorting to attacking science, scientists and anyone who supports them, they certainly would have had a much better chance of convincing me (and I suspect a few others also).

    Seeing I was nearly convinced anyway, and I know there were at least 2 or 3 other waverers – and the Bill only passed the Senate by 1 vote, I’d suggest this blinkered and intellectually dishonest approach was a pretty bad error.

  17. In the days when I worked as an exit counsellor, it was not uncommon to encounter people whose brains functioned like hermetically sealed traps.

    For those who might not understand what this means, here is an attempt at clarification.

    A can of baked beans is hermetically sealed before leaving the factory.

  18. It is a simple fact, however unpleasant and unacceptable you may find it, that our society places a lower legal and ethical value on embryos than it does on babies soon before or once they are born.

    A fact of which we are actually acutely aware. But just because it is so, doesn’t mean it *ought* to be so.

    (Presumably it is this fact that brings us back to the issue of abortion so often, although I have only tended to go there where there were good arguments to show why it is important that we *should* have place higher value on embryos).

    For the record, Senator, I am opposed to IVF too, as are many opponents of human cloning.

    The only reason I had not mentioned it myself, is because I was *trying* to keep away from things which are already legal.

    It should be reasonably clear from the many entries I’ve done on this topic that I was looking for months for reasoned arguments from those opposed to this legislation that weren’t just re-running the abortion debate

    Which is *why* I was trying to to avoid the issue as much as possible.

    Senator, you have yet to show us what is this mysterious thing, which makes some human life worth protecting and other human life not worth protecting.

    I’d be interested (my interest is genuine) in knowing why you were not persuaded by Frank Brennan.

  19. Senator, what about my suggestion that making human cloning legal for research purposes will make it more difficult to address those issues which *you* think we need to re-address? (#7)

    You have not answered this reason I offered.

    Just saying that opponents of this bill have not offered reasoned arguments does not make it so.

    What about the idea that Senator Kay Patterson herself put forward 4 years ago, that it is wrong to deliberately create human life for the purpose of experimentation? I know she has since changed her mind, but many people still think it’s wrong. “Surplus” IVF embryos are not created for the purpose of experimentation (or not officially anyway). There *is* a difference between using already created embryos for research and deliberately forming them. (Though neither should be permitted in my opinion).

  20. Coral, I’m very sorry for the sad situation and suffering of your friend. Because I oppose human cloning, and embryonic stem cell research generally, I know there will be many people who will accuse me of a lack of compassion. There is nothing much I can do about that.

    If one believes that human life begins at conception and that all human life is worthy of protection under law, as I do, then one cannot believe it’s okay for one person to live at the expense of another.

    I hope you understand that I do not bear any ill-will towards either your friend or any other person who suffers.

    I sincerely hope adult stem-cell research provides cures for them.

    Senator, just because I and others have not succeeded in persuading you, does not mean that we are incompetents, incapable of reasoning. You and others, have not persuaded me to your views either, remember.

    absurd furphies about rabbit-man and the like

    Calling them “absurd furphies” does not make them so.

  21. Louise

    This isn’t a debating competition and I’m not legislating to implement my personal views. Even if I had personal views similar to yours, it does not follow that I should seek to ensure the law matches them. I think I have a resonponsibility to take many more beliefs than my own into account – I probably would have voted agains the legislation otherwise.

    And you are right, my saying something is an absurd furphy doesn’t make it so. None the less, scare campaigns about rabbit-men and the like are absurd furphies, and those who insist on promoting them do themselves a serious disservice (assuming they are actually hoping to pursuade others to a particular course of action, rather than just demonise their opponents).

    It sometimes seems to me that some people on both sides of this debate are more interested in retaining every inch of their high moral ground, rather than conceding any of it to increase the prospect of obtaining the outcome they say they believe is the right one. (I’m not particularly referring to you by the way)

  22. Andrew

    I believe that even if there was evidence to justify human SCNT embryonic stem cell research the question would still need to be asked as to whether it is morally/ethically acceptable to create human life simply so that it can be experimented on and destroyed.

    As Senator Minchin said during the debate:

    “It is the cellular composition of an embryo that gives it the integrity of human life, not the manner of its inception or the swiftness of its destruction. … The dispute between us is whether the state should permit human life to be created by cloning in order to be destroyed ….”

    If I am human and alive now
    thenI was human and alive when I was born
    and therefore I was human and alive before I was born and therefore worthy of protection.

    Let’s stop talking hypothetical – let’s talk real life.

    There is no point at which I believe that myself, and my family, even though some suffer from chronic illness, were not a human life worthy of protection.

    I ask you if there is any stage in the development of you, your wife and daughter where you think you were not a human life worthy of protection and therefore able to be experimented on and killed?

    If our lives and the lives of the people we love are worthy of protection why not the lives of others?

    I do not believe that any human has the right to decide that another human is expendable.

    I do not see humans a mere commodities.

    For this reason I do not believe that whether a child lives or dies should be dependant on whether the mother chooses to let it live or die.

    For this reason I do not agree with IVF or experimentation on excess embryos or human cloning

    I know what I believe, I am waiting, like Louise, to hear what you believe.

    What is the missing link, the mysterious thing that makes only some life worth protecting, and not all life??

  23. Julianne

    “Let’s stop talking hypothetical – let’s talk real life.”

    I’m sorry, I’ve been talking real life all along. I just made a real life deicsion in regard to real life legislation which will have significant impacts on the real lives of many people and quite probably a multitude of embryos. I didn’t realise you were talking hypothetical.

    “I know what I believe, I am waiting, like Louise, to hear what you believe.”

    It’s not about me and my individual beliefs, it’s about what is appropriate to put in legislation in Australia.

    You believe a one cell embryo has the same intrinsic value as a newly born baby. Our laws do not reflect this and I believe the vast majority of our society do not believe this, including many extremely devout religious people.

    You oppose IVF. I do not, and even I did I wouldn’t seek to legislate to ban it.

    You seem to be saying that your personal beliefs should mean that others who don’t share them should be denied the propsect of improved treatments and cures for their conditions in years to come.

    I don’t think individual belief is sufficient to do something like that to others. I believe it is only justifable to do that to others if a strong case can be made that it is in the long-term interests of our society and of fundamental legal and human rights principles not to go down that path. I think there is a reasonably strong case that can be made along those lines, hence my giving serious consideration to voting against the legislation, but arguing the anti-abortion line isn’t it.

    I will agree with John Howard here and say I am envious of those who see this issue as such a simple, black and white one. Life is full of conflicting principles and society is full of people with differing and incompatible ethics. Most personal and societal ethical frameworks contain conundrums, paradoxes and logical inconsistencies, particularly when they are pushed to extremes.

  24. Louise,

    You say you’re opposed to IVF as well.

    You think women with endometriosis, polycystic ovarian disease and a plethora of other painful conditions should be denied access to infertility treatment – and that couples should remain childless for the whole of their lives.

    You’re not content to try to ban abortion and the disposal of surplus embryos. Now you want to ensure that some people can’t conceive in the beginning.

    In doing so, you are denying life to thousands of children, and depriving women of cures for their medical conditions. Sometimes having a baby improves or cures some of the painful conditions from which women suffer.

  25. Andrew

    Do you agree with the principle that the end justifies the means?

    So you think that the best thing for Australia is legislation which allows a class of humans to be developed whose sole purpose and reason for being allowed to live, albeit a very short time, is so that they can be used for research and cell harvesting!!!?

    This was supposed to be a conscience vote. Not one democrat voted against the bill. Do you all subscribe to the same questionable principle?

    I do have concerns that you would never draw the line.

    Only 4 years ago we were assured by Natasha and others that there would be no cloning, that all!!! the scientisits wanted was to do research on excess IVF embryos.

    You agreed to that.

    Now, the scientists, need!!! to clone humans, keep them alive for 14 days, experiment, and then destroy them.

    You have agreed to that,your justification – because there MAY be some benefit to another human in the future ie the end will justify the means.

    How will you respond, and on what basis
    would you reject the next bill, when the scientists say, that they need to be able to keep them alive for 4 – 12 weeks,as we are sure we’ll then get even better results?

    How would you respond to the push in the UK to kill disabled babies after they are born because” what difference does a trip down the birth canal make” ie if you can kill them before birth why not after?

    Following the logic of your argument it would seem to me that provided scientists come up with an end to justify the means, you’ll agree.

    Problem is, that doesn’t exonerate you from your responsibility.

    Hitler and his minders thought they were doing the right thing.

    They wanted to create a perfect human race.

    Scientists want to create a perfect world – free from the diseases to which we frail humans succumb.

    Hitler started with the disabled and moved on to the Jews.

    We started with excess IVF and have now moved onto specifically created humans.

    Who’s next?

    Tell me Andrew, when do we stop???

  26. Julianne

    I can only assume you have not actually been reading what I have been saying.

    My speech in the Senate specifically warned against the dangers of taking an ‘ends justifies the means’ approach.

    I have also clarified a number of times that the 2002 legislation imposed a moratorium on all forms of cloning – cloning was legal until then and it was agreed for the sake of certainty to start by making all of it illegal until there was further examiniation about whether modifications to this were acceptable.

    To continue to misrepresent it as you are doing shows you either are not listening to what others are saying, or you are not interested in any facts that do not match what you wish to believe.

    Your ‘end’ is to prevent research into serious diseases which could be immensely valuable. Your ‘means’ is to try to force the actions of others to be constrained by your own set of beliefs. You are free to try to do this of course, but the least you can do is be honest that this is what you are doing.

  27. I am not aware of any Neonazis among our politicians.

    I can draw no comparison between Hitler’s “final solution” and embryonic stem cell research.

    But I’m sure we’d all like to find a “final solution” to many debilitating diseases – and I hasten to add, not their sufferers.

  28. This isn’t a debating competition
    Senator, I didn’t say it was. I only wished to defend those of us who are opposed to the bill because it seemed you were suggesting a lack of reason on our part.

    You are not my representative and therefore, you owe me nothing whatever (apart from basic respect, and I must say, I do feel respected by you).

    On the other hand, I am attempting to speak on behalf of those Australians who oppose this bill and therefore *some* of the people who are your constituents.

    What I was getting at is just that the inability to persuade someone is not necessarily a sign of deficiency in reasoning.

    Even if I had personal views similar to yours, it does not follow that I should seek to ensure the law matches them.

    That would probably depend on how strongly you held them.

    I think I have a resonponsibility to take many more beliefs than my own into account – I probably would have voted against the legislation otherwise.

    Fair enough, Senator, but as I say, around half or more Australians are against this bill. It’s not just my beliefs here.

    None the less, scare campaigns about rabbit-men and the like are absurd furphies

    I’m unconvinced. I am a Global Warming skeptic and I often think that what we read in the papers etc about this topic is “scare-mongering.” Presumably you would disagree with me there.

  29. Senator, I will here say that I do believe you have done your best in making a dificult decision. In other words, just because I strongly disagree with the decision you made, doesn’t mean I think you are anything other than a decent man.

    assuming they are actually hoping to pursuade others to a particular course of action, rather than just demonise their opponents

    And where *we* have been vilified as lacking in compassion doesn’t count as “demonising” I suppose. I seems that you care more about the “demonising” of those for the bill than those who are opposed to it.

    It sometimes seems to me that some people on both sides of this debate are more interested in retaining every inch of their high moral ground, rather than conceding any of it to increase the prospect of obtaining the outcome they say they believe is the right one.

    That may be the case, Senator, but since I haven’t heard all that you have on this topic, I confess I am at a loss to know where the compromise could be reached.

    I don’t think individual belief is sufficient to do something like that to others.#25

    At least half the population is against this bill.

    I believe it is only justifiable to do that to others if a strong case can be made that it is in the long-term interests of our society and of fundamental legal and human rights principles not to go down that path.
    I think there is a reasonably strong case that can be made along those lines, hence my giving serious consideration to voting against the legislation, but arguing the anti-abortion line isn’t it.

    It seems pretty clear to me that it’s not in the long term interests of our society to be exploiting human life just because other people may benefit.

  30. I am envious of those who see this issue as such a simple, black and white one.
    Life is full of conflicting principles and society is full of people with differing and incompatible ethics.

    The one thing most people are certain of these days is “uncertainty.” That has its own comforts too, Senator. I think there are indeed, many uncertainties. How to raise one’s children is a classic. Get two or more people together to discuss parenting issues and watch the sparks fly! People seem very certain about how I should raise my children (ie like *them*). Whereas I see that this will depend on a lot of different factors, not least of which are the different personalities of children.

    But whereas there are indeed uncertainties in life, there are also absolutes. Those of us who see some things as “black and white” can be easily lampooned as “simple” but I’m afraid it does not follow at all. If one has some certainties then the ethics of particular issues may be easier to determine, that’s true. But the establishment of the underlying certainties is not a simple matter at all. It’s possible, but not simple.

    I am myself rather envious of those who are certain about uncertainty. In the end, one may do as one pleases. We may rest in the knowledge that we are “nice people” who have done our best. (And yes, I do think most of our politicians are “nice people” who do their best – including you, Senator, FWIW – not that you have to care about my opinion).

    It’s pretty hard to keep pushing an unpopular line. Especially since those who are for this bill have characterized themselves as the compassionate ones. If I am opposed to this bill, what does that make me?

  31. Senator, earlier I asked: “what about my suggestion that making human cloning legal for research purposes will make it more difficult to address those issues which *you* think we need to re-address?” (#7)

    This may not be a debating competition, but I was under the impression that it is a discussion. You needn’t reply if you don’t wish, but it will hardly be an answer. (There are people in Queensland who would be interested to know the answer to this question too, I would imagine).

  32. Coral said,
    You think women with endometriosis, polycystic ovarian disease and a plethora of other painful conditions should be denied access to infertility treatment – and that couples should remain childless for the whole of their lives.

    Why yes, Coral, if those treatments are unethical.

    If couples can be helped to have children in ethical ways, then that’s great. I do feel very sorry for people who cannot have children when that is what they want. But while we all have the right to found a family, no-one has the right to use unethical means to get there. (Standing back now, waiting for someone to throw the charge of “lack of compassion.”)

    You’re not content to try to ban abortion and the disposal of surplus embryos. Now you want to ensure that some people can’t conceive in the beginning.

    Senator, *this* is why people have not mentioned IVF in the current debate.

    Coral, I feel as though you are making me out to be some kind of monster who doesn’t care for others. Which simply isn’t true.

    In doing so, you are denying life to thousands of children,

    Or wishing to spare the loss of life to thousands of children.

    and depriving women of cures for their medical conditions. Sometimes having a baby improves or cures some of the painful conditions from which women suffer.

    I will say again that *any* ethical means for achieving pregnancy is to be highly commended. Not many doctors know of the wonderful help which many couples receive from Natural Family Planning methods, for example. Who knows how many couples could be helped in this way?

    But would it ever receive support? I doubt it.

  33. Louise

    It is true that taking the step this legislation allows will make it harder to address the issues I believe still need to be more fully explored – that’s the main reason why I came close to voting against the leigslation.

    I don’t believe the current actvities allowed by the legislation – using 14 day old embryos for research – is inconsistent with our society’s current ethical and moral framework. However, it will clearly be a major problems if it is proposed at some stage in the future to allows embryo clones to develop further towards becoming human beings, if we have adopted a belief or assumption that clones are of less value than other humans.

    Obviously, once we are a step down the path of developing such a belief or assumption, it is harder to reverse it – however, I don’t think we are locked in to that belief purely by the adoption of this legislation, so there is still an opportunity – indeed I think a necessity – for society to come to a more informed, conscious and settled view on the matter of the value we place on cloned entities.

    By the way, I’m not aware that any children will die through this research. There is however a reasonable chance that the lives of many children will be saved or significantly imporved. I’m sure millions of sentient animals will continue to die as the research is pursued, as well as some very early stage embryos which do not have even the beginings of a nervous system.

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