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RESEARCH INVOLVING EMBRYOS BILL 2002: Consideration in Detail

Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (9.21 p.m.) —I refer to clause 25(2)(d)(ii) in the section of the bill dealing with exempt uses:

(ii) the use forms part of diagnostic investigations conducted in connection with the assisted reproductive technology treatment of the woman for whom the excess ART embryo was created;

That says that the production of an embryo and the diagnostic investigations associated with that embryo are exempt from any penalty, provided it is investigated in connection with assisted reproductive technology treatment of the woman for whom the embryo was created. My colleague the member for Sturt has added the words `any necessary' because the original proposal does not say `any necessary diagnostic investigations'.

The Attorney-General has presented a case saying that he considers that this narrows the process to a point where a peer review process might be necessary to carry out diagnostic work. I would hope that peer review is necessary in a whole range of medical procedures, particularly when they apply to embryos. I cannot see what the objection is to narrowing the proposal. Unless the Attorney-General goes into further detail, I cannot understand how anything can be designed in order to object to this other than to favour the proposals of scientists who want to go beyond what is reasonable. Peer review is part of science. Something cannot be said to be achieved by scientists unless there is a proper peer review process.

The diagnostic investigations that may be necessary in connection with reproductive technology for the treatment of women are an essential part of the whole process. The amendment seeks to limit it to any necessary diagnostic investigations, not any unnecessary investigations. Surely the Attorney-General is not proposing that, by leaving these words out, we should imply that any unnecessary treatment be allowed. Is that what he means by leaving this out—that any unnecessary diagnostic treatment should be allowed? It seems to imply that.

In an article in the Stem Cell Report entitled `Advances in alternatives to embryonic stem cell research', Professor Alan Trounson is reported as saying that his view was that `there are at least three or four other alternatives that are more attractive already' than therapeutic cloning. The intention and the motivation are there among the scientists. We have explored that fully. I fail to understand the Attorney-General's insistence that, by implication, any unnecessary diagnostic investigations may be conducted. Necessary or unnecessary—there does not seem to be any boundary in this proposal. So, if I understand what is being said, he is saying that any necessary or any unnecessary investigations are allowed; it is up to the person doing the diagnostic work. They do not have to be reviewed, they have approval to do the diagnostic work and then they do not have to prove whether it was necessary or not.

Why shouldn't they have to prove that the diagnostic work is necessary? Surely, in this area, it must be demonstrated that the diagnostic work is necessary. I cannot express myself more strongly or more clearly than to say that those who do not wish to support this amendment either live in a world of legal expertise where the practice of science is unfamiliar to them or are aware of practices that scientists want to undertake and approve of them. It is one or the other, because both unnecessary and necessary diagnostic work can continue with no peer review and at the whim of the scientists. (Time expired)

Author: Alan Cadman MP
Source: House Hansard - 24/9/02
Release Date: 29 Sep 2002


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