12 March, 2003
By Paul Osborne
Queensland parliament has passed new laws allowing embryonic stem cell research under strict conditions and banning human cloning.
Eight government MPs, who were given a rare conscience vote, joined with 12 Opposition and independent members to vote against the research bill.
Sixty-five government, independent and Opposition MPs, including Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg, voted for the bill.
In a marathon debate over two days, opponents to the bill made emotional pleas for the government to support the "right to life" and ignore the claims of research scientists.
Independent MP for Nanango, Dorothy Pratt, who has multiple sclerosis, told parliament the research would provide little hope for herself or others suffering from degenerative diseases.
"Many people in this House have been seduced by fiction and not fact," Ms Pratt said.
Labor backbencher Ronan Lee said information circulated by the government to MPs that embryos were not important because they were "smaller than a full stop" was disgraceful.
"We ought to look at them not as though they are worthless but with wonderment," Mr Lee said.
"We ought to treat them with respect."
Premier Peter Beattie told parliament the laws, which mirrored those passed by federal parliament, would allow research under strict licensing conditions to make life-saving breakthroughs, while ensuring ethical standards were upheld.
"There is a strong scientific view that human embryonic stem cell research could lead to treatments that have so far eluded medical technology," Mr Beattie said.
Under the laws, scientists will be able to conduct research using excess embryos from IVF treatment created before April 5, 2002, and having the consent of donors.
Currently, the excess embryos are disposed of, largely through exposure
to room temperature.
© Copyright 2003, Queensland Newspapers