Monday 08 August 2022

New government won’t relax rules on experiments with embryos

The new government will not allow human embryos to be grown in laboratories for research after all, broadcaster NOS said on Wednesday.

Last year, outgoing health minister Edith Schippers said she backed a relaxation in the current strict rules and earlier this year the government’s main health advisory council also called for change.

The new coalition agreement states that the coalition parties will stimulate the discussion about embryo research but does not go as far as to suggest amendments.

Scientists say the decision is extremely disappointing. ‘[The agreement] has some letters and words, but in fact nothing will happen,’ fertility professor Sjoerd Repping told the broadcaster. ‘It is a complete standstill. And that means a standstill in developing new techniques to help childless couples.’

Currently, embryos can be used for research purposes if they are left over after fertility treatment but they cannot be created specifically for use in science.

Hereditary diseases

The health council said earlier this year fertilising eggs to create embryos for researching serious hereditary illnesses under strict conditions will not conflict with respect for life.

By experimenting with removing parts of the embryo’s dna, it may be possible to prevent children being born with serious health problems such as Huntingdon or Duchenne.

The techniques for doing this can be further refined while the ethical and legal discussion about creating embryos for research continues, the health council said.

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