From Mr Michael A. Ridge
Sir, — While respecting Lord Harries’s obvious expertise as a member of the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority, I do find his arguments why Christians should support the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill rather one-sided, to say the least (Comment, 8 February).
He writes at length about the merits of IVF treatment, which I think nobody would dispute. I do, however, think that there is a world of difference between seeking to help childless couples conceive, and destructive experiments on human embryos for the purpose of “scientific research”. It is hardly a fair comparison.
He mentions nothing of the fact that, since research on embryonic stem cells has been sanctioned, little progress has been made as far as clinical trials and cures are concerned. He mentions nothing of research on adult stem cells, which has been far more successful. Their use has none of the ethical problems attached to using embyronic stem cells. Surely we should be investing public money in this area, which is quite clearly yielding better results.
He also neglects to mention the other parts of the Bill, which would allow, for example, the creation of human-animal interspecies or admixed embryos, for the purpose of research.
In all of these areas, Lord Harries makes no mention of public opinion, which, I believe, reflects a growing unease with allowing science to advance unhindered without ethical considerations. As Lord Tebbit said during the debate at Report stage, just because science allows us to do these things, that doesn’t mean that they should be done.
I find it hard to find in scripture any evidence that life is not to be considered human before 14 days. My own reading seems to point to the idea that God values and respects life from conception, and that his plan for our lives began before we were 14 days old.
My understanding, limited to that of a layman, is that we are the only country in the world that has legislated for research on embyronic stem cells for the purposes of therapeutic cloning. Is this because we are “cutting-edge”, or because we are out of step with the moral and ethical considerations of our fellow nations? We must all draw our own conclusions.
I have drawn my own, and it is for this reason and many more that, contrary to Lord Harries, I believe that every thinking Christian should oppose the provisions in this Bill.
MICHAEL A. RIDGE
2 Charlbury Court, Bramcote
Nottingham NG9 3NA