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Foetus Experiments

Volume 885: debated on Tuesday 4 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what experiments are taking, or have taken, place using a live human foetus in university or research council laboratories.

The Medical Research Council assures me that no such experiments would be conducted in its laboratories or supported by its grants. I do not control university research but I am advised that it is both unethical and illegal to carry out experiments on a viable foetus which are inconsistent with treatment necessary to promote life.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that such experiments are deeply repugnant to many people? Can he say whether experiments on live but not viable foetuses are legal?

My advice is that a foetus which is live and viable in legal terms is a baby and is fully protected by the law. On the question of a foetus which is not viable, I understand that the question is at present one of medical ethics for the doctor or surgeon in charge of the abortion or whatever operation has preceded these events. These are matters which are departmentally the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services and can be debated on Friday when the Bill before the House will seek to secure the statutory implementation of parts of the Peel Report, which dealt with this very difficult question.