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Health Minister corrects Mark

Opinions expressed by Mark Durkan MP about the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill contain several factual inaccuracies and are therefore misleading (Seeking to preserve the integrity of humanity, Belfast Telegraph, April 7).

It is untrue to imply that human embryos will be permitted to grow inside animal wombs. What Mark is stating to be true will, in fact, be illegal.

The bill currently before Parliament sets out strict controls on human admixed embryo research, which are broadly the same as those applying to research on human embryos. At no point could such an embryo be implanted into a woman, and there will be a limit of 14 days development of the embryo in the lab.

In reference to embryo testing for so-called 'saviour siblings', Mark suggests we are 'opening up the possibility of allowing the harvesting of organs'. The bill explicitly does not allow testing where the intention is to use whole organs, but allows testing, as a last resort, where the intention is to use umbilical cord blood or bone marrow.

Finally, Mark states that 'some children will have absolutely no right to know their father'. In fact, the opposite is true. The bill enables donor-conceived children to have access to identifying information about their donor (since the removal of anonymity in 2005) and, further to this, the bill encourages people to use licensed services by removing barriers to treatment, which would ensure this.

Ben Bradshaw

Health Minister

Department of Health


Belfast Telegraph


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