MP calls for meeting over embryos

Edinburgh, UK - A Labour MP has written to Scotland's leading Roman Catholic hoping to arrange a meeting between the Church and scientists over embryo research.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien described legislation going through Westminster, which would allow the creation of animal-human embryos, as "monstrous".

Jim Devine, who is the MP for Livingston and also a Catholic, said the Church had distorted the facts.

Leading medical experts have backed Mr Devine's call for a meeting.

Serious illnesses

In his Easter sermon, Cardinal O'Brien described the legislation as a "monstrous attack on human rights, human dignity and human life", adding that it would allow experiments of "Frankenstein proportion".

The cardinal, who is the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, also described the practice as "grotesque" and "hideous".

The row has intensified with a number of Catholic Labour cabinet members warning that they may vote against the government.

Mr Devine said the Church was showing a lack of understanding.

He said: "This is not about creating Frankenstein monsters.

"This is about looking at serious illnesses like Alzheimer's and Multiple Sclerosis.

"This is about looking at major illnesses that affect hundreds of thousands of people and their families throughout the UK and giving them hope."

Fertility expert Lord Winston said statements made by Cardinal Keith O'Brien were discrediting the Church.

Some 200 medical charities have urged MPs to support the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

It is designed to bring the 1990 regulatory framework for fertility treatment and embryo research in line with scientific advances.

Dr Stephen Minger, director of stem cell biology at King's College London, said that a meeting with Church leaders would seek to "clarify" a number of scientific aspects of the fertility bill.

He said "We have proved over the past year that we are more than happy to engage with the public and policy makers on these issues but we are concerned that society as a whole is allowed to have this important debate on the basis of good, accurate information."

Downing Street has said a decision on whether to allow Labour MPs a free vote on the bill will be taken "in due course".