Prof. Huriet denounces the bill authorising research on the embryo

Publié le : 12 March 2013

 In an interview granted to the French weekly La Vie, Prof. Claude Huriet, doctor and president of the Institut Curie, former member of the National Consultative Committee on Ethics (CCNE) and former senator involved in the previous bioethics laws, denounces the bill authorising research on the embryo and embryonic stem cells (Gènéthique press review from 4th to 8th of February 2013). Speaking on Wednesday before the bill is to be examined by the National Assembly on 28 March, he called it "a project out of touch with scientific reality."

 Questioned on the reasons for his opposition to this bill, Prof. Claude Huriet explains that since 2011, when the last law on bioethics was passed, "there has occurred no new event" that could justify why the principle of a ban with dispensations laid down in it should be modified. "On the contrary, [he points out] there are increasingly more reasons for going in quite a different direction than research on the embryo." As a doctor and president of the Institut Curie, this bill "is a most unwelcome intervention", and its only aim "is to replace the word ‘prohibition’ with ‘authorisation’. The mechanism is ideological, based on the denial of the existence of numerous alternatives, in order to present research on embryonic stem cells as the only source of hope.
Furthermore, he emphasises that this project to authorise research on the embryo "has no medical purpose." In the framework of research on embryonic stem cells, he adds, "we have gone from disillusion to disillusion […]. The only way forward is to carry out fundamental research, but that is not what we are being told." He points out: "I’m against the fact that the population is given to believe that this research is a source of therapeutic hopes, whereas for the past fifteen years there has been no medical application, and those in other countries who believed in it have grasped this and abandoned it." But "recent scientific publications point to real therapeutic hopes with adult stem cells," such as "the famous iPS of the Nobel prize-winner Yamanaka." (Gènéthique press reviews from 8 to 12th of October 2012 and from 12th to 16th of November 2012) Prof. Claude Huriet adds: "this is where the therapeutic hopes have moved: we are in a scientific context quite different from the one in which these laws were passed; and this bill does not take this into account.
The journalist concludes by mentioning that the key issue, "it seems, is a disagreement on the status of the embryo." On this subject, Prof. Claude Huriet explains that "the real difficulty is to move from ethical questioning to law-making," adding that "we cannot reach a consensus on the embryo, unless we demand that some people abandon their values." Hence, "we need to stop taking up an ideological position on the embryo, and drop the political calculations behind the making and unmaking of these bills, and instead adopt a scientific approach."

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