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Foetuses Retained For Research

Volume 622: debated on Monday 12 February 2001

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asked Her Majesty's Government:How many foetuses are held for research purposes by hospitals and clinics through the United Kingdom; what form of consent was obtained from their parents; whether any foetal tissue has been used for work involving stem cells or germ live gene therapy; what ovarian tissue from aborted or miscarried foetuses has been the subject of research licences; and whether they will list the details. [HL601]

Information on the number of foetuses held for research is not available. However, the recent Census of Organs and Tissues Retained by Pathology Services in England shows an estimated 2,900 "stillborn babies and foetuses" retained at the end of 1999 from post-mortems carried out between 1970 and 1999; and a further 2,700 retained from before 1970. The census (lid not distinguish between stillbirths and aborted foetuses or specify why the foetuses were retained.The use of foetuses in research falls under the

Polkinghorne Code of Practice on the Use of Fetuses and Fetal Material in Research and Treatment, which states that the written consent of the mother should be obtained. There is no licencing system for foetal research. Consequently, data to answer the questions about ovarian tissue and the origins of foetal stem cells used in research are not available.

asked Her Majesty's Government:What foetal tissue is supplied to the Medical Research Council foetal tissue banks at Hammersmith Hospital by the Marie Stopes Ealing abortion clinic; what commercial arrangements exist between these institutions; to what use this foetal tissue been put; what consent has been obtained from parents; what other links exist in the United Kingdom between the National Health Service facilities and abortion clinics; and whether they will list them. [HL602]

The clinic supplies foetuses from terminations of pregnancy to the tissue bank. There are no commercial arrangements between the two institutions and the foetal material is provided free of charge.The tissue bank is an intermediary body set up in accordance with the Polkinghorne recommendations and does not itself carry out research. The tissue is put to a variety of uses from applied research on diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease. Down's syndrome, leprosy and AIDS/HIV to underpinning research on basic cell and tissue culture techniques and work on normal human development.Written consent is obtained from women in accordance with

Polkinghorne Code of Practice on the Use of Fetuses and Fetal Material in Research and Treatment. The only other independent sector clinic with permission to supply tissue to the National Health Service is the Calthorpe Clinic, which supplies material to the Birmingham Children's Hospital.