TORONTO, September 14, 2005 ( – The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the government body overseeing Canadian experiments in cloning and use of embryos for research and was the major lobbyist in favour of the unrestricted use of living embryonic human beings for destructive medical research.Â

It will come as no surprise to many, therefore, that the CIHR has changed the rules to continue making embryo research a more open field. According to Dalhousie University bioethicist Francoise Bayliss this June, the CIHR quietly changed the rules regarding embryo donation to allow for the use of “fresh” embryos. In other words, the regulations now allow women to have embryos made specifically in order to donate them for medical research. The Liberal Party crafters of the reproductive technologies bill had assured the public that only those embryos “left over” from in vitro fertilization procedures would be allowed to be donated.

Dr. Jeffrey Nisker, wrote in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that women could be at risk if the use of un-frozen embryos became common and that the practice must be stopped. Nisker, a well-known IVF specialist and director of medical ethics and humanities at the University of Western Ontario, has always supported the use of live embryos for research, but has insisted it must be done “ethically,” a position that opponents can see as obviously incoherent.

Ironically, Dr. Nisker is making exactly the same accusation against the passed reproductive technologies legislation as was made by pro-life critics during the debates on Bill C-6. He says that the ambiguous language of the bill and the hidden agenda of the CIHR have allowed a loophole that makes legal the creation of embryos for research, despite the ostensible prohibition.

Nisker said, “In the deliberation, we never for one minute had on our radar screen that fresh human embryos would be used for any other purpose but to achieve pregnancy.
“So because we were not thinking in terms that a doctor would one day approach a woman and say, ‘Would you donate a fresh human embryo to research?’ there is no prohibition in the legislation.”

Dr. Nisker sat on the committee that created guidelines that resulted in what some ethicists have called the world’s most permissive and deceptive piece of embryo research legislation.

Nisker wrote that the practice of IVF doctors asking women to donate newly created embryos for research violates the ancient Hippocratic oath, which says to do no harm to a patient. The Hippocratic oath, however, is no longer taken as the basis for medical ethics since it also includes strong prohibitions against abortion and euthanasia, practices which modern medical ethics largely support.

  Read related coverage:

Read CTVnews coverage:

See Stem Cell page on Bill C-6