Forum Bioethik
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INFO/ Human Genetics Alert

November 22, 2001

1.       Conference
2.       The text of the British Governments new legislation to ban Human
          Reproductive Cloning
3.       Human cloning ban expected
4.       Singapore to allow stem cell research; cloning prohibited
5.       Smallpox vaccine uses fetal cell line

'Designer embryos & stem cell design: the final frontier in assisted
conception' / Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, London / 22
February 2002 / 9.30am
This one day meeting, organised by the British Fertility Society (BFS), will
discuss the science and ethics of stem cell research before asking 'What's
so wrong with designer babies?' For more information, email
<> .

The text of the British Governments new legislation to ban Human
Reproductive Cloning

A Bill to prohibit the placing in a woman of a human embryo which has been
created otherwise than by fertilisation.
1.      The Offence
1. A person who places in a woman a human embryo which has been created
otherwise than by fertilisation is guilty of an offence.
2. A person who is guilty of the offence is liable on conviction on
indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or a fine or


Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 10:39 GMT
BBC News
Human cloning ban expected

A bill explicitly banning human reproduction through cloning is being
published by the UK Government on Thursday after it passed a first reading
unopposed in the House of Lords on Wednesday. Ministers say their aim is to close a recently exposed loophole in the current law that could be used to justify any unlicensed cloning experiments.Critics say the government is rushing to bring forward bad legislation and they will make strenuous efforts to amend it.
The government action was deemed necessary after anti-abortion campaigners,
the Pro-Life Alliance, won a High Court ruling last week that laid bare a
major deficiency in the legislation covering embryology research.
Medical malpractice This flaw centred on the legal definition of an embryo - the union of an egg and a sperm. Because a clone is produced in a different way, the judge ruled that current
regulations did not embrace the new technology. This loophole, in theory, could allow someone to conduct cloning experiments without the licensed permission of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, the body that is supposed to oversee this area of research.
In reality, commentators said, other laws relating to medical malpractice and even assault could be used to prevent cloning experiments.Therapeutic cloning
Nevertheless, the government is determined to remove the legal flaw. It also
intends to appeal against the High Court ruling. Ministers hope that by closing the loophole researchers will then be properly licensed to carry out a more limited form of cloning - so-called therapeutic cloning - that aims to develop replacement cells to treat
degenerative diseases.
The government's critics say the country's embryology legislation is deeply
flawed and there is little point in merely trying to patch it up.
Peers and MPs opposed to the use of embryos for research on ethical grounds
say they will attempt to amend the bill so that both reproductive and
therapeutic cloning are banned. 'Proven success' Richard Gardiner, chairman of the Royal Society, argues this would be wrong: "We need to secure a watertight ban on reproductive cloning," he told Radio 4's Today programme.
"But we would argue very strongly not at the expense of therapeutic cloning,
which is a vital technique for helping us to understand how you can
reprogram the genetic information from specialised cells so that we can more
effectively help patients. Lord Alton, who opposes all forms of human cloning, told Today an
alternative had emerged since previous legislation was drafted.
"Since January last, impressive new evidence... illustrates that there is an
alternative, and that's the use of adult stem cells. There's a vast biomedical potential there, a proven success record in laboratory culture and a proven success record in current clinical
treatment," he said.

Singapore to allow stem cell research; cloning prohibited
Posted: 9:10 PM (Manila Time) | November 20, 2001
Agence France-Presse

Tentative nod
SINGAPORE -- The use of embryonic stem cells received a tentative nod in
Singapore on Saturday after a multisectoral advisory committee agreed to the
use of 14-day old embryos for research.
However, the Bioethics Advisory Committee (BAC) tasked to address the
ethical, legal and social issues arising from biomedical research said human
cloning must be prohibited.
"We feel perhaps taking embryos at an early stage when the full personhood
is far from being realized yet... (provides) an opportunity to help cure
patients, alleviate their suffering and even prolong their life," said BAC
chairman Lim Pin.
Richard Magnus, a senior district judge who heads the BAC's human stem cell
research subcommittee, said: "We are just confining our recommendation with
regard to early embryos not more than 14 days old. That's as far as the BAC
is prepared to recommend at this point in time."
Scientists in Singapore, a prosperous Southeast Asian city-state, are
already involved in stem-cell research despite the absence of ethical, legal
and social guidelines.
The republic is poised to become an important center for the fledging
science by the end of the year when one of the world's top three stem-cell
suppliers, ES Cell International, sets up shop here.
This has prompted the government to set up the BAC last year to draw up
guidelines after the use of human embryos in research has generated intense
controversy worldwide because of the ethical and moral questions involved.
Embryonic stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can evolve into blood,
liver, muscle and other organs. Researchers hope they can one day be used to
repair damaged organs or cure diseases such as Parkinson's, diabetes and
In a media briefing to announce their tentative position, the BAC drew the
line, saying it was against the cloning of humans as its "possible benefit
is greatly overweighed by ethical concerns and safety issues."
Lim said however that they would "entertain the possibility of keeping the
embryo perhaps for research purposes" but this would be considered only as a
"last resort."
Last week, the BAC released a consultation paper to 38 religious, medical
and other interest groups ahead of dialogues sessions in December.

Smallpox vaccine uses fetal cell line
Some Americans may refuse shot, worsening potential outbreak
By Jon Dougherty
) 2001
A company that would use a stem-cell line from an aborted fetus to
manufacture a new smallpox vaccine is one of only a few firms being
considered for a major new government contract despite concerns that the use
of such tissues could lead many people to refuse the shots, thereby
worsening any outbreak.
The company, Acambis PLC of England, in partnership with the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention
<>  in Atlanta, has
already been contracted by the federal government to make 40 million doses
of the vaccine.
According to the Washington Post, that contract  signed last year  is set
to increase to 54 million doses. But, as a part of a plan being formulated
by the Department of Health and Human Services, the number could rise by as
much as 250 million doses under new requirements to manufacture enough
vaccine for every man, woman and child in the country.
Three other companies besides Acambis are being considered for the new
vaccine contract, the Post reported.
The department announced earlier this month that the agency is soliciting
bids for the manufacture of a new smallpox vaccine. The current stockpile,
at just 15 million doses, is far from adequate should terrorists release new
strains of the disease in public, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said.
Officials have voiced new concerns over intentional smallpox outbreaks in
the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and the outbreak of anthrax at various
locations along the East Coast.
Meanwhile, health officials with the Food and Drug Administration say the
method of manufacturing the old vaccine, called Dryvax, which was made by
Wyeth using calf skin, is "no longer considered optimal." Instead, the
agency says the new smallpox vaccine "will be prepared in MRC-5 cells"  a
line of aborted fetal cells dating back to 1966  because that method is
more efficient.
"The MRC-5 line was developed  from lung tissue taken from a 14-week fetus
aborted for psychiatric reasons from a 27-year-old physically healthy
woman," said a description of the cell tissue by the Coriell Institute for
Medical Research at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey,
where the line is maintained. The institute further describes it as "normal
human fetal lung fibroblast."
The new manufacturing method has concerned some pro-life groups, who argue
that the use of aborted fetal tissue could cause pro-life supporters to
refuse it, making any outbreak worse in terms of duration and mortality.
"If enough people refuse the vaccine, we may be faced with serious epidemic
problems," said Debi Vinnege, executive director of Children of God For
Life, <>  an organization that monitors the use of
aborted fetal tissue in the manufacture of vaccines.
"There is no reason to endanger the lives of hundreds of thousands, if not
millions, of Americans when perfectly acceptable alternative methods may be
used to cultivate the smallpox vaccine," she told WorldNetDaily.
Lenore Gelb, a spokeswoman for the FDA, said the use of the stem-cell line
for vaccine production was not new, adding that it was not up to her agency
to decide who should and should not receive the vaccine.
"The FDA doesn't have that role," she said.
Asked if she was concerned about a prolonged outbreak due to the refusal by
some to take the vaccine, she said, "FDA approves a vaccine based on the
'safety and effective' [criteria]." She said "recommendations for who should
get a vaccine" were up to the CDC.
Smallpox 'easily transmitted'
Vaccinations to prevent smallpox have not been required in the United States
since 1972, says HHS, because it was largely eliminated as a threat in the
United States.
Caused by a virus known as Variola major, smallpox "is considered one of the
most dangerous potential biological weapons because it is easily transmitted
from person to person and because few people carry full immunity to the
virus," according to department documentation.
Although a worldwide immunization program eradicated the smallpox disease in
1977, small quantities of the smallpox virus still exist in two secure
facilities in the United States and Russia, the government said.
"However, it is possible that unrecognized stores of smallpox virus exist
elsewhere in the world," said an HHS assessment.
"Smallpox vaccine has proven to be highly effective in preventing infection.
In unvaccinated people exposed to smallpox, the vaccine can lessen the
severity of, or even prevent, illness if given within four days after
exposure," said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute
of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, a
division of the HHS, in testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee
Nov. 2.
Nevertheless, there is obvious concern among experts that terrorist
entities  as they have with anthrax  could eventually reintroduce smallpox
into U.S. society. If that happens, some public health experts say extreme
measures would be needed to combat the threat.
One such plan is already in the works. Last month, all 50 state governors
were sent a copy of a proposal that, if passed into law, would grant each of
them new authority to act in the event of a health emergency like a smallpox
According to the report, the measure would allow governors  upon the
declaration of a health emergency  to invoke the authority to order roads
and airports closed, to quarantine entire cities, and to move people to
holding facilities like sports stadiums, if need be, to protect the rest of
the public from becoming infected.
"In tough times, you have to make tough decisions," Paul Jacobsen, assistant
commissioner for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, told the
Boston Herald Monday.
One of those "extreme measures" could be compulsory vaccination, some worry.
Under the proposal, even those who philosophically disagree with the
ingredients of the vaccine may, under extreme measures, be vaccinated
against their will for the good of an entire community.
Nevertheless, April Bell, a spokeswoman for the CDC, told WorldNetDaily that
the United States does not currently have a mandatory vaccination
requirement. Also, she said that in the event of widespread infection,
universal vaccination may not even be necessary.
Under the epidemiological concept of "herd immunity," Bell said, "you would
vaccinate around the case. If some people refused to be vaccinated, you
vaccinate those they were in contact with," thereby isolating the spread of
the disease.
"That's how smallpox was eradicated in the first place," she said, adding
that smallpox carries a relatively low  30 percent  mortality rate.
Bell said the CDC had no position on the state emergency health powers
legislation. However, according to Lawrence O. Gostin, director of the
Center for Law and the Public's Health at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown
Universities, <>  the author of the
measure, the "act ensures a strong, effective and timely response to public
health emergencies  without unduly interfering" with civil rights and
"Emergency health threats, including those caused by bioterrorism and
epidemics, require the exercise of extraordinary government functions," he
wrote in a preamble introduction to his 40-page "model" bill.
The bill was drafted in collaboration with the National Governor's
Association, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Association
of Attorneys General and the National Association of City and County Health
If you'd like to sound off on this issue, please take part in the
WorldNetDaily poll. <>

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