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Britian Bans Human Embryo Cloning

June 24, 1999

LONDON (AP) _ The government rejected expert advice and banned the cloning of human embryos today for any kind of medical research, saying more time is needed to consider the implications.

The decision, announced in Parliament after months of deliberations, came as a surprise. The move meant that embryos may no longer be cloned for infertility and congenital disease research.

The government had been expected to follow a recommendation by its advisors that Britain should allow continued research into the cloning of human embryos _ provided they were destroyed after a maximum of 14 days _ for the treatment of disease, while maintaining a ban on cloning to create babies.

In the United States, publicly funded embryo research is banned and in Germany and France it is not allowed at all.

British authorities have long banned cloning aimed at developing replacement tissue, as is done in the United States.

Public Health Minister Tessa Jowell said human reproductive cloning ``is ethically unacceptable and cannot take place in this country.″

``However, we recognize that regulations to allow therapeutic research should be very carefully considered,″ she told Parliament.

The government advisory body, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, had recommended permitting cloning for therapeutic research, saying U.S. experiments in growing ``master″ cells of human tissues from an embryo have huge potential for medical treatment.

Researchers hope the U.S. technique, by which any type of adult cell could theoretically be made, could lead to the creation of heart, kidney and other tissue to replace diseased parts of the body.

However, the technique theoretically could be used to clone a human being.

Jowell said more evidence was required ``of the need for such research, its potential benefits and risk, and ... account should be taken of all alternative approaches that might achieve the same ends.″

The government ordered its Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Liam Donaldson, to set up an independent group of experts to examine the issue, consult scientists internationally and report early next year.

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