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News – Call for commission

January 2011

Call for commission

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali has appealed to the UK government to set up a commission on bioethics to replace the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

     Bishop Michael, who is a former chairman of the Ethics and Law Committee of the HFEA, which is soon to be abolished, said that it was vital to create a national forum for discussing important ethical issues that affect legislation or policy.

     The HFEA is disappearing as part of the wide-ranging austerity measures put in place by the Government.

     Bishop Michael said, ‘It is important that ethical reflection should keep up with scientific and medical developments. Those engaged in such work should be both supported and held accountable by the nation for their contribution to personal and social well-being’.

     Writing in monthly cultural and political magazine Standpoint, Bishop Michael said that embryos had a right to be protected.

     His article said, ‘One possibility may be to create a body along the lines of the US president’s Commission on Bioethics. Such a commission would continue to offer advice on the moral status of the embryo and on the strict limits there should be on what can be done with it.

     ‘There are also serious moral issues about the storage of eggs and of embryos and how they are to be used. Researchers and practitioners will have to be held to account. We need a body that will not only monitor and regulate but will be able to provide moral direction in areas that are sometimes uncharted.

     ‘Apart from scientists, philosophers and theologians, it is of crucial importance that wider society should be represented on such a body’.

     The bishop also proposed that the work of the Human Genetic Commission could be brought within the remit of an extended commission.

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