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Tuesday, 24 September 2002
Page: 7134

Mr PYNE (8:45 PM) —I move:

(1) Clause 25, page 9 (lines 23-26), omit sub paragraph (2)(d)(ii), substitute:

“(ii) the use forms part of any necessary diagnostic investigations conducted in connection with assisted reproductive technology treatment of the woman for whom the excess ART embryo was created; or”.

I move this amendment because the legislation as drafted has a loophole, which I will explain. The current IVF procedures that are able to be conducted allow any number of eggs to be taken from a particular woman, fertilised and then put back into the woman for the purposes of the creation of a human being. The way the legislation is drafted, that is quite possible. The IVF program takes a number of eggs and diagnostically tests them to see which are the strongest, which have flaws and therefore which ones should be replaced into the woman.

The legislation as it is currently drafted would allow as many eggs as the IVF clinic decided to take to be diagnostically tested. It does not indicate how the testing should be conducted, how many eggs should be taken, what the testing should seek to achieve and whether there should be a licence for that testing. This is a loophole in the bill because what could happen is that 20, 30 or 40 or, in particularly fecund women, 50 or 60 eggs could be taken. Under the guise of diagnostic testing to determine which were the strong ones, the flawed ones, the weaker ones, an embryonic stem cell research program could be conducted in theory without a licence. This clause in the bill establishes the exemptions from the requirements for a licence. A licence is required for a whole lot of purposes except where they are exempted. The ART program for diagnostic testing is exempted. If an IVF program decided to take 50 or 60 eggs and test them diagnostically, they could, under the guise of diagnostic testing, conduct an embryonic stem cell research program. That was not the intention of the bill.

The intention was that diagnostic testing was to mean exactly what occurs now, which is that eight, 10 or 12 embryos are created, diagnostically tested and the strongest are put back in and the 10 that are not put back in are frozen. That was the purpose of diagnostic testing as described in this bill. The loophole that is created needs to be closed. My amendment inserts the word `necessary', just one word, and would deal with that problem. An IVF clinic that was to determine what diagnostic testing was required would need to have regard for the fact that the use forms part of any `necessary' diagnostic investigations conducted in connection with an ART program. So the word `necessary' would be a hurdle or a break, if you like, for any IVF program to consider whether the diagnostic testing being conducted was a necessary part of the ART program. If it were not necessary, they would not conduct it. If it were necessary, it would be exempted. If it were to be exempted, it would require a licence.

This whole bill is about embryonic stem cell research being conducted under licence. It is a very important point. This bill is not about allowing carte blanche embryonic stem cell research. It is not about saying that embryonic stem cell research is a good idea and must be conducted without any fetters. It is about the Commonwealth government, through the ethics committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council, establishing a regime under licence for ART programs for embryonic stem cell research programs. The amendment would make clear that a licence was needed to do any necessary diagnostic testing. I would urge my colleagues to consider seriously this amendment and support it. (Time expired)