Is it time to relax or tighten the legislation on human embryo research?
Over the past decade, human embryo research has generated both enormous scientific interest and extensive public debate. In response to this, Australia passed two Acts in 2002: the Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002 (Cwlth) and the Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2002 (Cwlth). Together, these Acts, and mirror legislation passed by all states and territories, enabled Australian scientists to undertake specific research involving human embryos, provided that they obtained a licence from the Embryo Research Licensing Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), reported regularly to this committee, and had their research approved and monitored by the appropriate institutional ethics committee. At the same time, these Acts prohibited a series of practices — including human cloning, creation of animal–human cybrids, maturation of research embryos beyond 14 days, and the buying and selling of human oocytes — and provided substantial penalties for breaches of the provisions.
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