More MS news articles for Jan 2002

French bioethics law passes first reading

Jan 22, 2002
PARIS, (Reuters)

A new law on bioethics that would permit limited embryo research in France but maintains a ban on all forms of human cloning passed its first reading in Parliament on Tuesday.

Deputies in the National Assembly voted 325 to 21 to adopt the text, which will now go to the Senate.

It will not be debated there until after presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled from April to June, an indication of the controversy surrounding the issue.

The draft aims to amend three laws on bioethics passed in 1994 to take account of scientific and medical developments.

France has been among the countries most opposed to cloning technologies and the text maintains an existing ban on both reproductive and so-called therapeutic cloning--the creation of stem cells for medical research.

The text includes provisions for prison terms of up to 20 years for anyone found guilty of flouting the prohibition.

Among changes to the 1994 laws, the new draft would permit research using frozen embryos from fertility clinics that are no longer needed for human reproduction.

It would also extend the circle of people able to donate an organ for transplant from close relatives of an individual who needs the transplant to anyone with a "stable and durable relationship" with the intended recipient.

The cloning of human embryos has raised passionate debate worldwide with critics, including those in France, lobbying for a global ban on such research on fears that it could lead to creating a whole person.

Supporters of therapeutic cloning say the technique could prove invaluable in the development of cures for a whole range of diseases.

France's biotechnology industry has pushed for less restrictive legislation on therapeutic cloning and urged the government last week to allow imports of stem cells to advance medical research.

Stem cells, or "master cells," have the potential to turn into any type of human cell and hold immense, though unproven, promise for treating many illnesses, including Parkinson's disease, heart disease and diabetes.

Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited