Stem Cell Research

Letter to all MPs.

As you will be aware, Parliament will be debating the report from the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) about Stem Cell research quite soon. The British Fertility Society urges you to support his recommendations.

It is generally acknowledged that research on stem cells derived from human embryos has the potential to dramatically increase our understanding of and treatment of many common diseases. All clinical and research work involving human embryos in the UK is under the tight control of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). Strict adherence to the HFEA Code of Practice ensures that the interests of patients, and their potential children, always remain priorities. All clinical and laboratory procedures involving human embryos are only permitted if the couple have given prior informed, written consent. Research on embryos that are not suitable for infertility treatment and would otherwise be discarded, is considered to be highly desirable. Already many couples have given consent for research using their embryos and these embryos are now in storage awaiting Government approval. It is the expressed wish of these couples that their embryos are used to progress research in this area.

The British Fertility Society represents over 800 doctors, scientists, nurses, counsellors and patients who are principally involved in the provision of fertility treatment in the UK. The expertise of these practitioners is an integral part of future stem cell research since it is spare embryos, created within fertility units, generously donated by infertile couples, which would be used as a source of stem cells. The Society has therefore examined all the implications of this research, both as they affect our patients directly and as they affect the wider community.

On the basis of these considerations, we strongly support the CMO’s recommendation to allow research in this area, which we anticipate will lead to new treatments for many devastating clinical problems. The public can be reassured that infertile couples will not be disadvantage by such research.

The Report recommends that an Authority, such as the HFEA, monitor research on stem cells. This would involve increased expenditure for the HFEA. Since the majority of the HFEA funds are provided by a direct tax on fertility treatment, paid for by infertile couples, we strongly urge that the additional resource for this extra work for the HFEA be provided centrally. It would be totally inappropriate for infertile couples to fund stem cell research, as well as their own fertility treatment and altruistically donating their embryos.

We hope you give these matters your most serious attention.

Signed on behalf of the British Fertility Society,

Dr John Mills
Chairman of the BFS