New things approach: ‘human-animal embryos’

Jan Osko

‘Even if someone does not believe in God he must admit that mankind has always opposed any procreation between people and animals. This contradicts human dignity’, says Josephine Quintavalle, the founder of the organisation Pro-Life Comment On Reproductive Ethics.

In London one can hear jokes about the creation of a man-cow or a joke about a man-ape. However, it is not funny at all. The British Parliament is working on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, which will introduce the possibility to create human-animal embryo-hybrids. And this is not the only experiment that this legal act will permit. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is a large project that regulates various fields. They can be summarised in several points. Apart from the creation of human-animal hybrids, in vitro fertilisation allows conceiving the so-called ‘spare twins’ (saviour siblings). Briefly speaking, a saviour sibling is a kind of medicine. A new human life is conceived as genetic material that will serve to treat the sick. For example, if a child gets sick its parents decide to have another child. After a saviour sibling is born, its bone marrow is taken and inserted into the sick child. As the scientists assure us the saviour sibling has the chance to save its brother or sister without any serious damage to its health. But this is not so obvious. Another field the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill regulates is the agreed female parenthood in vitro fertilisation. This means open possibilities for fertilisation for lesbian pairs and single women. The bill also regulates the period during which the unborn children can be killed. The law states that abortion can be conducted till the 20th week of pregnancy and not till the 24th week as it is today.


Undoubtedly, the biggest novelty in the whole project is the possibility to create human-animal hybrids. ‘Even if someone does not believe in God he must admit that mankind has always opposed procreation between people and animals. This contradicts human dignity’, says Josephine Quintavalle, the founder of the organisation Pro-Life Comment On Reproductive Ethics (CORE). ‘The experiments on human-animal hybrids can lead to many new diseases. Currently, animals suffer from diseases to which people are immune. However, this can change and new genetic or infectional diseases that are dangerous to people can appear’, says Beata Klepacka, London-based MD, who graduated from Cambridge University. A human-animal hybrid is made when one animal cell is inserted into a human embryo. You can also insert a human cell into an animal embryo. The followers of this method claim that the number of human egg cells is too small and consequently, one should use human-animal cells. However, the long-term aim is to create a new species, a new being, perhaps a new human being, in this case a man-animal.

Saviour sibling

What is more interesting is that the most fervent discussion in Great Britain does not concern human-animal hybrids but saviour siblings. People raise humanitarian arguments that human life should be saved at any costs and we should resort to the possibilities that science gives. But a whole range of moral reservations and doubts is raised. Currently, in order to take, let’s say, bone marrow from a child the child must be over 12 years old and gives its consent. Nobody asks the saviour siblings’, Beata Klepacka reminds us. ‘Saviour siblings remind us of slavery that has been condemned in all possible ways. This contradicts our sense of justice. One cannot sacrifice one human life for another one. This is an extremely instrumental way of treating man’, says Josephine Quintavalle. The worst thing in the whole process related to conceiving new life in order to take ‘spare parts’ is that such a child may never be born. It is enough to take suitable cells in the prenatal life of saviour siblings. Then the conceived human life that nobody wants will be simply discarded.


For 40 years (since abortion was legalised) 7,000,000 abortions have been conducted in Great Britain. And the number of abortions is rather growing’, Josephine Quintavalle informs. ‘Based on my research I can say that over 80% of children with Down syndrome, which was diagnosed in the prenatal examination, are killed’, Beata Klepacka adds. Therefore, one should not expect that saviour siblings would have chances to survive. The bill allows a limit that is four weeks shorter. But one can still kill a conceived child until the 20th week. The change was caused by the fact that doctors in private clinics refused to conduct abortions in cases of more advanced pregnancies. ‘This amendment is not successful. I am a member of the organisation that opposes any abortion. However, reducing the limit can save about 3,000 unborn children a year’, claims Josephine Quintavalle. But the agreed female parenthood in in-vitro fertilisation does not evoke much controversy in the British media. ‘This would be some fiction anyway. Before the fertilisation treatment the lesbian pairs come with some colleague whom they introduce as the father of the child. Now they will not have to do that’, Beata Klepacka says. ‘The voices of opposition are few. This is an open attack against the father’s role’, Josephine Quintavalle reminds us. The opinion of the retired Anglican Bishop Graham Dow of Carlisle who compared the government of the Labour Party and the influential homosexual hobby to the biblical beast emerging from the sea, has been either ridiculed or ignored.

Party line

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is bound to gain enough votes. The number of politicians in the British Parliament who defend life is not big. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is in favour of the bill and he has the support of another very influential scientific, medical lobby. The Labour Party members will keep the party line while voting. There are three cabinet ministers who are Catholics: Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Transport, Des Browne, Secretary of State for Defence and Paul Murphy, Secretary of State for Wales. Ruth Kelly has already said that she is not going to support the bill that contradicts her conscience and she will probably hand in her resignation. But the decisive majority of the ruling Labour Party will vote ‘yes’. ‘Only a minority of the conservative opposition will vote against the bill. But it is the Conservative Party that raises most objections. The Scottish bishops of the Roman Catholic Church directed a pastoral letter to the government. The letter was read in 500 parishes in Scotland. The bishops asked MPs not to vote according to the party line. In the whole territory of Great Britain leaflets have been spread. People are encouraged to write protests to the MPs. However, if a miracle does not happen the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will come into effect this year.

"Niedziela" 33/2008

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: