Moral and Ethical Issues in Gene Therapy
Genetic research has advanced in a dramatic fashion in the last decade or so, to the point where it has now become possible to attempt therapeutic genetic modification, in a few cases of human genes, where a defects exists which manifests itself in certain serious diseases. This possibility, known as gene therapy, is only in its infancy. At present, no one knows how effective it will prove to be, even in the few conditions on which it is being tried - whether it will only be of relatively limited application, or whether it will open up many wider possibilities. It suffers both over-optimistic claims from some quarters and exaggerated dangers from others, over which the church needs to be discerning. It is, of course, not possible to assert exactly where the possibilities opened up by today’s technology will lead in terms of future developments, but various ethical and moral issues are implicit in the technology which it is important to draw to the Church’s attention, so that it is forearmed in an area where developments have been taking place at a bewildering pace. An editorial in the “New Scientist” in April 1994 drew attention to the need to weigh up what may still be future issues today, before the technological “horse” bolts from the stable and it is too late to lock the door.
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Cloning in the 21st Century
In December 2008, Margo MacDonald MSP (Independent) published her Consultation paper, The Proposed End of Life Choices (Scotland) Bill. This has now progressed to the introduction in the Scottish Parliament, on 20th January 2010, of a Bill, the End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill. Although it was expected that this Bill would be scruitinsed by the Health and Sport Committee, a six- member ad hoc Committee has been formed to scrutinise the proposed legislation. A call for written evidence to this committee was issued on 10th Feb 2010; the deadline for submission is 12th May 2010 , after which point oral evidence will be taken. The Parliament has agreed that the deadline for the end of consideration of Stage 1 of the End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill is to be 24th November 2010. All MSPs have been given the freedom to vote on conscience, rather than the vote being subject to party whips
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