The ProLife Alliance last week succeeded in its quest to point out a so-called 'loophole' in the law that fails to prohibit human reproductive cloning. In a High Court ruling, the claim made by the organisation that human embryos created by cell nuclear replacement (CNR) are not protected by the wording of the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (HFE Act), was upheld. The ProLife Alliance claimed that the judgement left the HFE Act 'in tatters' and exposed the government's 'gross incompetence'.
Mr Justice Crane held that an organism created by CNR - the cloning method used by scientists to create Dolly the sheep - cannot be called 'an embryo' and is therefore not covered by the HFE Act, which says that an embryo is the product of fertilisation. If this is the case, the reproductive cloning of humans is not regulated by the Act and, as such, is theoretically lawful.
Since the ruling, the maverick Italian fertility specialist, Dr Severino Antinori, has announced that he intends to come to the UK in order to start cloning humans for infertile couples. Dr Evan Harris MP, a health spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said Antinori's claims were 'not credible' and that it would be 'almost impossible that Dr Antinori would find collaborators, eggs, embryos and women willing to be implanted in the time available before the legal situation is clarified'.