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11 / 12 / 2008 - Christian Legal Centre and CORE are Refused Permission in Animal Hybrids Judicial Review Attempt
The High Court today refused the Christian Legal Centre and CORE permission to judicially review the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority’s decision to grant research licences which involves creating animal human hybrids. The main concern in this case was that the rule of law was circumvented by the HFEA’s decision to pre-empt Parliament who had not yet decided whether this kind of research should be allowed. In a civilized society it is vital that no individual or public body is above the rule of law.
In a decision which will cost CORE and the CLC approximately £20,000, Mrs Justice Dobbs ruled that the challenge was not arguable because the HFEA had acted within their powers when granting the licences. Mrs Justice Dobbs held that the decision by the HFEA, following their own public consultation, was not irrational because proper consideration had been given to the issues surrounding the grant of the licences.
CORE and CLC argued that under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 the definition of a human embryo prohibited the creation of animal human hybrids (because they are not human) and that even if they were not prohibited, the licenses were neither necessary nor desirable in light of recent developments with adult stem cell research where the real progress in finding cures to serious illnesses is being made.
During the course of her Judgment, Mrs Justice Dobbs said it was possible for a human animal hybrid to be defined under section 1 of the 1990 Act as a human embryo and what is human depends on the facts understood by scientific knowledge at the time. This chilling statement shows little regard for the special status and dignity of what it means to be human.
Following this ruling the danger is now that we will see further attempts by the HFEA and scientists to push the boundaries beyond even the creation of animal human hybrid embryos without fearing legal challenge. We are indeed living in a brave and dangerous new world which appears to know no ethical boundaries.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, Barrister and founder of CLC said: “Today we have been penalised for our attempt to seek access to justice on behalf of the embryo and have been hit by substantial costs. It is a travesty of justice that public interest bodies cannot bring these cases without running up enormous costs. It is ironic that the HFEA was set up to be an independent body concerned with fundamental ethical questions and for the protection of public interest. Yet when public interest bodies wish to challenge controversial ethical decisions there is no internal means of doing so, whereas scientists refused a licence can ask the HFEA for reconsideration.”
Members of the public and public interest groups cannot challenge this type of decision unless they seek judicial review and are prepared to risk large amounts of money and resources which most can ill afford. This was a legal challenge designed to hold the HFEA accountable to the rule of law. It was important because the HFEA has total control over the regulation of the embryo. It is therefore vital that such a body is held and seen to be held properly accountable. It would seem that Parliament and the Judicial system now work together within increasingly liberal legislation to prevent fundamental ethical and legal challenges that go to the heart of what it means to be a civilized society; how we should treat the most vulnerable members of our society – human embryos in the first days of life.
CORE and the CLC believe this Judgment will stop members of the public challenging the actions of public bodies which will be to the detriment of justice.
Source : CCFON