Laws on embryos 'recall Nazism'

October 22, 2004

Couples should be free to select what sort of child they have or to abort an embryo on the basis of any minor defect without the law intervening, a leading Oxford University professor has told MPs.

Julian Savulescu, professor of practical ethics at Oxford, urged the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee last week to slacken legislation controlling reproductive medicine and research, warning that it reflected the "spirit of eugenics" in Nazi Germany.

Appearing on a panel of ethical experts, Professor Savulescu said there could be no moral objection to reproductive technologies that resulted in the death of an embryo, because up until 20 weeks that embryo had no moral status. "I fully support people's right to have a termination of pregnancy for teeth defects, for heart defects, for any defects or none at all," he said.

He warned that the existing Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act was imposing a state blueprint on society.

He added: "The point is that procreation is a private affair between, in this case, the doctor and the patient, not between the public through an indirect route, through the HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) influencing what should be a private decision."

While some members of the committee voiced support for some of Professor Savulescu's opinions, Labour MP Geraldine Smith told him: "You may well think that a free for all is okay but a great number of people disagree with you and their views have to be fed into the process."

The two other panel members, Robin Gill, professor of modern theology at Kent University, and Alastair Campbell, professor of ethics in medicine at Bristol University, said it would be wrong to repeal or modify the legislation.

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