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The approval by Britain's parliament of the creation of human-animal embryos
The approval by Britain's parliament of the creation of human-animal embryos for scientific research met with mixed reactions from the country's media on Tuesday.

The plans were approved on Monday-Tuesday after parliament defeated an amendment to ban inter-species experiments by 336 votes to 176 after hours of late night discussion and debate pitting religious leaders and Catholic MPs against scientists and leading politicians. The research under debate involves injecting human DNA into cells derived from animals.

Britain's Human Fertilization and Embryology law was drafted in 1990.

"If we want to sustain stem cell research and bring new cures and treatments to millions of people, I believe admixed embryos are necessary," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had earlier argued in an article in the Observer newspaper.

However, religious leaders said that the creation of human-animal embryos was immoral. The head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, said in parliament that such experiments were akin to "Frankenstein" science.

Conservative MP Edward Leigh said during the heated debate that, "We are like children playing with land mines without any concept of the dangers of the technology that we are handling."

However, scientists have defended the research, saying that the embryos would be developed for no more than 14 days, and would do much to put an end to a lack of human embryos for stem cell research.

The Daily Telegraph was of the opinion that parliament's approval meant that Britain would now become a world leader in stem cell research.

The Daily Mail however said it was "a huge step into the unknown," with untold moral and religious consequences. The tabloids The Mirror and The Sun were in favor, saying it was a victory for progress. The Times cautioned that the creation of the embryos would not "lead to immediate medical breakthroughs."

In a separate vote, parliament also decided to permit parents of children with serious diseases to use in-vitro fertilization to select "savior siblings" able to act as donors for transplants for their sick brothers and sisters.

Supporters claim that this will help children unable to locate matching tissue donors. However, critics are concerned about the effect this could have on the lives of children born solely to improve a sibling's health. This could be a particular concern if the treatment is unsuccessful, they say.

The embryology debate is due to continue on Tuesday with members of parliament scheduled to vote on the requirement for IVF clinics to take into consideration a child's need for a father by replacing the wording to 'supportive parent.' A scrapping of these considerations would ease current restrictions on lesbian couples and single women.

Abortion laws are also up for review on Tuesday. A number of MPs are looking to lower the 24-week time limit.


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