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Report on Ethics Group meeting on 4th March and action needed by parishioners

Brian Pointer and John Cummins led the meeting. This report also attaches a copy of Dr Cummins' letter to the MP, Andrew Tyrie as an example of the approach which parishioners could use in writing to our MP on this important matter.

The meeting, attended by sixteen parishioners and Father Kieron, was held in the upper parish rooms, to consider the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill currently at the report stage in the House of Lords and very soon to be debated in the House of Commons.

After a short film produced for the Bishops’ Conference, setting out a number of key issues contained in the bill, John Cummins gave a talk to demonstrate the aim of the bill - to update the 1990 Act, to keep up with accelerating scientific development and establish very firm regulatory boundaries. Our Bishops and many people in the Lords, wished to use the Bill to establish a National Bioethics Commission. Our Bishops are encouraging and trusting the Laity to participate in this National debate, by writing individually to their M.P’s, clearly expressing their views on one or more points of concern. In this way the M.P.’s will be obliged to vote and as representatives of their constituents, be influenced by what the people say. John thought this Bill was an opportunity for Catholics to influence National opinion and subsequent legislation and that the Bill was therefore, potentially, a good thing.

In the well balanced discussion that followed, controlled from the chair by Brian, not everyone agreed with this view. Brian produced a copy of the unamended Bill and identified sections of contention. Worries about using the Bill to liberalise the rules for abortion and removing the need for fatherhood were expressed. As the Bishops’ said, the rules could be tightened and the fatherhood issue may well be thrown out, judging by the Lords’ reaction.

All agreed to write to our M.P., Andrew Tyrie, House of Commons, London S.W.I.A O.A.A. Indeed , several had already done so, receiving thoughtful responses and a small deputation had talked to him too. Each person vowed to encourage more people to write in the hope that increasing weight of opinion will influence Mr Tyrie’s wavering commitment, noting the Bishops’ comment that ‘politicians and people in the media will not be impressed by arguments framed in religious terms’.

The meeting concluded with a thoughtful prayer by Father Kieron at 9 p.m.

Dr Cummins has written to Mr. Tyrie - as follows:
"Andrew Tyrie MP - House of Commons - London - SW1A OAA

Dear Mr Tyrie,

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

Stem cell research, codifying genetic structure, research in embryonic development, - these are some of the practical endeavours to sustain, improve and maintain the quality of human life.

In these activities into uncharted territories there are potential dangers :-
1: Degrading the very thing that is being served by creating human life as a means and not as an end in itself. Attitudes towards such life will inevitably become equivocal - and it is human life, that is why it is created.

2: There is a danger of creating two or more categories of human life - those that benefit, and a subgroup of those created to be beneficially sacrificed. Of which latter would be included hybrid embryos, blurring the distinction between human and animal creation. These hybrids would be bred to be sacrificed, but might be developed to produce a sub-human worker species. Brave New World!

Anyone offered a cure for fatal disease, derived from, say, sacrificial embryo research, would understandably have difficulty in refusing such a life-line. We are now at a stage where such a possible future scenario can be prevented from happening by allowing only ethically sound research. Adult stem-cell research is producing results and will one day produce ‘Get out of jail’ treatments for currently incurable diseases.

I have a background of forty years work as a family doctor in our health service, witnessing and trying to help a complete spectrum of suffering. So I have developed a great love and respect for all human life. I advocate that future developments in treatment which are so exciting should be encouraged but carefully monitored with the aim to preserve at all costs, the integrity of human life. We should have a reverence for all life and above all human life, whatever our convictions, beliefs or non-beliefs, in order to live in harmony in this ever more crowded world.

When this Bill is debated in Parliament, I hope and trust that you will help to influence the outcome as a true representative, bearing in mind what I and many, many more of your constituents think about this complex matter (and I have not even mentioned abortion, the ultimate sad rejection of humanity).

In anticipation, I thank you for your valuable time and attention and look forward to learning of your considered thoughts.

Yours sincerely

John Cummins M.B.B.S. F.R.C.G.P."

A significant letter to The Times was published on 7th March, from leaders urging a free vote in the Commons on amendments.

Further information can be obtained through any of the following organisations which are helping the Parliamentary Group with our campaign.

Care: mail@care.org.uk -- www.care.org.uk

RTL: phyllis@righttolife.org.uk -- www.righttolife.org.uk

Life: info@lifecharity.,org.uk--www.lifecharity.org.uk