Canada: an advisory committee for assissted suicide

Publié le 19 Jul, 2015

The Canadian Federal Government has created an external advisory committee to assess legislative options for consideration following the judgment delivered by the Supreme Court in February, which declared the total ban on assisted suicide as unconstitutional.

On Friday, the Ministry for Justice and Health indicated in a press release that the committee will hold consultations with medical authorities and conduct “an on-line consultation to find out what the population thinks about this delicate issue”.

The committee comprises:

Harvey Max Chochinov, holder of the Canadian Research Chair in Palliative Care and Manitoba University and Director of the Manitoba Palliative Care Research Unit. He is the Chairman of the newly formed committee.

Benoit Pelletier, Professor of Law at Ottawa University and former Minister of Quebec.

Catherine Frazee, Professor Emeritus at Ryerson University and former Co-Director of the Ryerson-RBC Institute for Research and Training specialising in Disability Studies.

Research has therefore been carried out at Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU), under the supervision of “stem cell expert”, Dr. Shoukhrat Mitalipov, also known for his controversial work in “Three Parent IVF” [1]. He wanted to put forward a therapeutic strategy for children “already born with a mitochondrial disorder”.

To this end, the scientists developed two techniques and specified that “both approaches work” and are complementary:

In some patients, mitochondrial DNA mutation is not present in all cells. In this case, scientists produced iPS cells from healthy skin cells.

As this technique was impossible in others, they created stem cells by transferring the nucleus of a patient’s cell to the enucleated oocyte of a donor with healthy mitochondria. This is nuclear transfer or therapeutic cloning involving the creation of an embryo followed by its destruction. Dr. Mitalipov had already carried out studies using this technique.

 

They then multiplied the stem cells and differentiated them into the type of cells required by the patient: cardiac, neurone and visual, finally transplanting them without risk of rejection to replace diseased tissues.

 

The team believes that the discovery paves the way to new regenerative medicine allowing doctors to treat patients who have been incurable to date.

 

Note from Gènéthique: The ethical problem nevertheless remains. This technique is subject to controversy in the same way as three parent IVF, albeit on a different scale: that of therapeutic cloning, which creates and destroys embryos.

 

[1] This technique is now legal in Great Britain

Radio Canada (17/07/2015)

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