CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND, May 9, 2002 ( – New Zealand scientists are applying to a national ethics body for permission to experiment with, and in the process destroy, human embryos in a quest to improve artificial fertility treatments, reports.

Peter Benny, medical director of the Fertility Centre in Christchurch Women's Hospital, wants to learn how genes behave during egg maturation, fertilization and embryo growth. He wants to identify which embryos are most likely to lead to a successful pregnancy after artificial insemination.

Benny says researchers want approval to move on from non-viable embryos – those that have too few cells to develop into a baby – to “potentially viable ones” – embryos that survive the thawing process and can be used for various purposes.

Responding to criticism from New Zealand pro-lifers, Auckland fertility expert Dr. Richard Fisher said “there will always be a group of people for whom any form of destruction of embryos is abhorrent, but those are items of faith, and they're not likely to be debated to a successful conclusion.” He added, “The majority of New Zealanders will accept it in time, provided we don't rush it and we explain what we're trying to do.”

In essence, however, this is an attempt to select the fittest embryos for use in morally dubious research and to discard or perform additional experiments on the rest. For the story see:

For the Fertility Centre's homepage see: