Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Theraputic Cloning and Stem Cells

This is a bit of a beat up, but worth noting. There are more reports at The Australian too. This report is from the ABC.

The Prime Minister has told a joint partyroom meeting that he will allow a conscience vote on stem cell research, if a bill on the topic reaches a vote in Parliament.

The Liberal and National parties have debated whether to allow the extension of stem cell research to therapeutic cloning.

About a dozen MPs spoke about the issue during the meeting.

John Howard says the matter will be debated again by the Coalition next month, and he will allow experts to be made available if MPs want more information on the topic.

Mr Howard told the party room that if a vote does reach Parliament, he cannot impose a Government view on such an issue.

But it is not clear if it will come to that.

The Democrats are putting forward a private member's bill on stem cell research but it may not reach a vote.

Former health minister Kay Patterson says the debate within the Coalition has been considered and courteous and she is inclined to support changes to allow therapeutic cloning under strict controls.

"I think it's very important, people have strongly held views both sides, other people are wavering and need more time to look and discuss the issue with their colleagues and scientists and with other people, it's a very difficult issue, it's not easy yes and no or right and wrong answers," she said.

Labor's Tony Burke says he would be comfortable with a conscience vote but he does not support extending the use of stem cell research.

"My position will be the same that I took in the New South Wales State Parliament," he said.

"I'm on what's regarded generally as the conservative side of that debate that puts me in a minority in my own party but that's what I believe and the party gives me the opportunity to express that."

We believe that the Cabinet debate will be as early as tomorrow and that Costello, Abbott and Howard all share the same personal view that the ban should continue and the Lackhart Review dismissed as flawed. But Howard is known to be very weak on stem cells and the small 'l' liberals have big heads at the moment after ensuring the Government's Immigration Bill would be defeated.

This is from The Australian (click on link to read whole report)

THERAPEUTIC cloning has emerged as the next threat to Howard Government unity amid mounting partyroom pressure for a conscience debate on the ban.

West Australian backbencher and doctor Mal Washer yesterday called the cabinet-imposed ban undemocratic.

Former health minister Kay Patterson asked whether opponents would change their tune if cloning delivered a cure to a disease that threatened their own lives or their children's.

Therapeutic cloning - also known as somatic cell nuclear transfer - involves implanting the nucleus of a human cell into a human egg after its nucleus has been removed and allowing the cell to grow into an embryo so cells can be used for research.

A parliamentary conscience debate in 2002 that set guidelines for stem cell research banned SCNT.

But a committee led by former judge John Lockhart recommended late last year the ban be overturned.

Cabinet decided in June not to act on the recommendation.

We'll watch this one closely. We don't have a President with right of veto!

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