A Catholic bioethicist in Britain is warning scientiststhere that they may be breaking human rights laws if they take advantage of new legislation in the UK governing reproduction and medical research.
The controversial new British bill gives researchers the power to use genetic material such as skin or blood to create human and human-animal hybrid embryos. Researchers can take the needed tissue from people lacking the mental capacity to give consent, from seriously ill children whose parents give permission, or anyone who has already donated samples for medical research but cannot be contacted.
David Jones, director of the Centre for Bioethics and Emerging Technologies at St Mary's University College, says the act -- passed last month -- could be open to legal challenge on the grounds that what happens to individuals' cells is a private matter covered by the country's Human Rights Act.
"I am sure that when people give general consent to use tissue samples they don't think that they are going to be used to create human embryos."
The presumed consent clauses are justified by the British ggovernment as being of "scientific necessity," which Jones said "shows how open to challenge the legislation is."
Jones's comments are also an indication that opponents of the new law will not be relaxing their fight just because the llegislation has now been passed.
Stephen Minger, director of the stem-cell biology laboratory at King's College London, defended the law.
"You can't use (a person's material) if you are aware you would in some way be violating their personal beliefs about how their cells should be used."