The UK Department of Health is no doubt currently breathing a sigh of relief. Having won its appeal against last year's decision that UK legislation does not cover cloned human embryos, the government can now rest assured (assuming the case goes no further) that it does have regulatory control over therapeutic cloning.
We should, however, see this whole court battle as little more than an exercise in legal time-wasting which has limited impact on the ethical and social issues associated with therapeutic cloning. One can only assume that the ProLife Alliance brought its case in the first place because it had failed to block therapeutic cloning in parliament. If the anti-embryo research campaigners had successfully demonstrated that the creation of cloned embryos cannot be regulated by existing legislation, the issue would have been forced back into parliament. The successful appeal against the ProLife Alliance's victory has meant that their legalistic tactics aimed at undermining cloning research have been scuppered. But that's all: no great principle has been lost or won by resorting to the courtroom.
The only way to have a debate about therapeutic cloning is to do it in public and to focus upon the ethical and social implications of doing - or of not doing - this research. This is what has been happening in parliament and in the media since the possibility of therapeutic cloning was first mooted five years ago. It is clear from these debates that there is substantial support for this research to go ahead. So, isn't it about time we let the scientists get on with it?