Thursday, 4 October 2012
The Senate – Wednesday, 3 October.
The Committee on Social Affairs voted almost unanimously for a draft law submitted by the RDSE group, whose aim is to authorise research on the embryo. The open debate will be held on Monday, 15 October in the evening… We must ask ourselves why we have this rushed revision coming through a side-door on a subject that was at the heart of the bioethical debate a year ago.
From a ban to authorisation: the principle of protection will become an exception
The Jérôme Lejeune Foundation holds that this transformation is a reversal of French law around this fundamental ban: “the law assures the primacy of the person, forbids all reduction of the dignity of the person, and guarantees the respect of human beings from the beginning of life” (article 16 civil code). This is an unprecedented paradigm change where the protection of human beings becomes an exception to the new rule of non-protection.
Mr Holland placed at the core of his campaign promises not simply the desire to respect the fundamentals of the republican pact, but also to respect the importance of democratic debate. We must then ask ourselves why he supports this parliamentary initiative, especially as the organisation of public debate is a legal obligation before any modifications to the bioethical law *.
Illusionary boundaries – liberalisation will be uncontrollable
The reversal will be radical: far from introducing a system of permits under strict and real conditions with the aim of limiting the liberalisation of research on embryos and stem cells, the draft law is putting in place conditions that are deliberately unworkable (see box below).
Paradoxically, in 2011, it was through the excesses of the Biomedicine Agency – a monitoring agency under the tutelage of the Ministry of Health – where their authorisations for research were critiqued, that parliament was encouraged to re-enforce control. As evidence, the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation won a judicial victory last spring against the Biomedicine Agency which had illegally given an authorisation.
The current conditions, despite bans, are already not respected! How can we imagine that they could be in a system with authorisations, unless we believe that the human embryo should no longer be given any protection?
Strategic errors of yesterday and today: blindness or calculated?
Due to political choices made at the beginning of the 2000s, favouring research on embryonic stem cells, France is seriously behind in cellular therapy (see box below). Today, do the President of the Republic and his majority want to make France even further behind? The question is made even more urgent in this time of budgetary restrictions: is it not in the interest of political leaders to prioritise research whose therapeutic effectiveness is proven?
In 2011, no researcher claimed to be hindered by the regime of bans and permissions. There are certain laboratories in the pharmaceutical industry, aiming to use embryonic stem cells without any constraints, who want to see these restrictions removed. Will the President of the Republic and his majority sacrifice human embryos for the commercial interests of the laboratories?
REMINDER – the potential of stem cells (embryonic or non-embryonic) can be defined under two domains of use:
- Cell therapy (designating cell grafts whose aim is to restore the functionality of tissues or an organ when they have been damaged). In this area, non-embryonic stem cells (adults or blood from the umbilical cord) are already used to treat the sick. This is not the case for embryonic stem cells after more than 20 years of research.
- Modelling of pathologies and screening of molecules (notably useful for the pharmaceutical industry). In this area, IPS cells are just as effective as embryonic stem cells.
* L1412-1-1 French Code of Public Health: “All reform projects around ethical problems and the questions of society raised by the progress of knowledge in the biological, medical or health domains must be preceded with a public debate in public forums.”