Australia MPs Told Adult Stem Cell Research Better Than Human Cloning

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 4, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Australia MPs Told Adult Stem Cell Research Better Than Human Cloning Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 4
, 2006

Canberra, Australia ( — In the debate leading up to a vote in the Australia parliament on whether or not the nation should keep its ban on all forms of human cloning, lawmakers were told in a recent forum that adult stem cell research is better. They were also told that human cloning will exploit women.

Liberal Senator Chris Ellison organized the forum which more than 50 MPs attended. She told the Daily Telegraph newspaper that most lawmakers are still undecided.

"I think it’s fair to say that from the questions asked … many members and senators are still considering this issue very closely,” Senator Ellison said.

Katrina George from Women’s Forum Australia told MPs that the medical risks to women who undergo the egg extraction process to gather eggs for researchers are still unknown. She pointed out that some women have already experienced problems.

"Egg extraction poses grave risks to women’s health,” she said.
“It is not fair to pursue a path which will jeopardize the health, fertility and even lives of large numbers of healthy women," she added.

Deputy health minister John Anderson also spoke to lawmakers and told them that legalizing human cloning would pressure women to donate their eggs.

"As cloning embryos for their stem cells depends on a sufficient supply of ova, who’s going to supply the eggs?” Anderson told ABC Radio.

“You know, that’s a fairly invasive procedure," he added. “I venture to say it won’t be ordinary, comfortably-off, middle-class Australian women who’ll be doing it.”

Meanwhile, adult stem cell researcher Professor Alan Mackay-Sim of Queensland’s Griffith University told those who attended that adult stem cell research has as many prospects as embryonic stem cells.

His lab won a $22 million dollar award form the Australian government in May and he said that recent research showed adult stem cells from a person’s nose have many of the same properties as embryonic ones.

“Biology would not have predicted (that) five years ago,” he told reporters, according to the Telegraph.

Prime Minister John Howard last month bowed to pressure to allow a free vote on human cloning and both sides of the debate have been lobbying lawmakers since then.

Last week, a new report commissioned by the Australian government found that human cloning is not necessary for scientific research. The report indicated that there has been no scientific progress using human cloning to advance science in the last three years since parliament voted for a human cloning ban.

Commenting on the report, Australians for Ethical Stem Cell Research spokesman Dr. David van Gend said the report showed a previous review by the Lockhart commission was "based on their own ethical prejudice and their unsubstantiated wish list of what cloning might achieve."

An August poll shows Australians oppose human cloning and ten times more Australians prefer adult stem cell research to studies involving embryonic stem cells.

The survey, conducted by Sexton Marketing, found 51 percent of Australians opposed human cloning, 30 percent supported it and 12 percent had no opinion on the issue.

The survey of 1,200 people also found that 90 percent of those polled were aware of stem cell research.

Assuming each type of research brought equal benefits to patients, 40 percent preferred using adult stem cells and just 4 percent preferred using embryonic stem cell research. Some 51 percent had no preference.

The Sexton poll also found that 48 percent of those surveyed would change the way they vote in the next election depending on how their local MPs stood on the issue of human cloning.

Australia was criticized in November 2004 for changing its position to support a U.S.-backed proposal at the United Nations calling for a ban on all forms of human cloning. Prime Minister John Howard’s government quietly changed its position to support a coalition of 60 nations, led by the United States and Costa Rica.

In 2003, Australia opposed the treaty and supported a competing proposal pushed by a Belgium and a smaller group of nations to allow human cloning for research.