England: lawsuit challenges hybrid-embryo research

London, Apr. 9, 2008 (CWNews.com) - Two Christian groups have filed a lawsuit to cut off British government support for research involving the creation of hybrid embryos.

The Christian Legal Centre and Comment on Reproductive Ethics have filed their suit in High Court, challenging a decision by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology authority (HFEA) to grant licenses for hybrid-embryo research at Newcastle University and King's College.

The groups argue that existing legislation prohibits the creation of hybrid embryos (which combine human and animal tissue). The British government has introduced new legislation that would allow the research, but the plaintiffs reason that the HFEA has "preempted and usurped the will of Parliament."

The lawsuit adds the argument that the authorizing legislation allows HFEA to grant licenses for embryo research only if the "proposed use of embryos is necessary for the purposes of the research." The hybrid-embryo research is not necessary, the plaintiffs argue, because the desired end-- the harvesting of stem cells-- can be achieved by other means. The groups follow up with the observation that the best current research suggests that the hybrid-embryo work will not yield practical benefits.

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