Wednesday, 1 December 2021
Mitochondrial Donation Law Reform (Maeve's Law) Bill 2021; Consideration in Detail
I present a supplementary explanatory memorandum. I seek leave to move government amendments (1) to (16) on sheet QJ138 and government amendment (17) on sheet QJ149 as circulated together.
(1) Schedule 1, item 10, page 6 (line 4), after "from", insert "a human egg of".
(2) Schedule 1, item 17, page 18 (lines 14 to 19), omit paragraph 28J(2)(a), substitute:
(a) that appropriate protocols are in place to enable proper consent to be obtained before any of the following activities are carried out under the licence (see paragraph 28N(1A)(a)):
(i) an excess ART embryo, a human egg or a human sperm is used;
(ii) a human zygote or a human embryo (other than an excess ART embryo) is created or used;
(iii) any material not covered by subparagraph (i) or (ii) of this paragraph is created, developed, produced or used;
(aa) that appropriate protocols are in place to enable compliance with any restrictions on such consent;
(3) Schedule 1, item 17, page 21 (lines 22 to 29), omit subsection 28N(1), substitute:
(1) A mitochondrial donation licence is subject to the condition that the requirements of subsection (1A) are met before any of the following activities are carried out as authorised by the licence:
(a) an excess ART embryo, a human egg or a human sperm is used;
(b) a zygote or a human embryo (other than an excess ART embryo) is created or used;
(c) any material not covered by paragraph (a) or (b) of this subsection is created, developed, produced or used.
(1A) The requirements are as follows:
(a) each responsible person in relation to the material referred to in paragraph (1)(a), (b) or (c) must have given proper consent to the carrying out of the activity;
(b) the licence holder must have reported in writing to the NHMRC Licensing Committee that such consent has been obtained, and any restrictions to which the consent is subject.
(4) Schedule 1, item 17, page 21 (line 32), omit "(1)(b)", substitute "(1A)(b)".
(5) Schedule 1, item 17, page 22 (lines 3 to 6), omit subsection 28N(3), substitute:
(3) A mitochondrial donation licence is subject to the condition that the carrying out of an activity referred to in paragraph (1)(a), (b) or (c) must be in accordance with any restrictions to which the proper consent under paragraph (1A)(a) is subject.
(6) Schedule 1, item 17, page 23 (lines 7 and 8), omit "the use of a human egg or a human sperm", substitute "the carrying out of an activity referred to in paragraph (1)(a), (b) or (c)".
(7) Schedule 1, item 17, page 23 (lines 16 to 18), omit the definition of responsible person in subsection 28N(8), substitute:
responsible person, in relation to material mentioned in an item of the following table, means a person mentioned in column 2 of the item.
(8) Schedule 1, item 17, page 25 (after line 6), after subclause 28P(5), insert:
(5A) Without limiting section 15, the NHMRC Licensing Committee may also request, and have regard to, advice from any person having appropriate expertise.
(9) Schedule 1, item 17, page 26 (line 33), omit "28N(1)(a)", substitute "28N(1A)(a)".
(10) Schedule 1, item 17, page 27 (line 11), after "from", insert "a human egg of".
(11) Schedule 1, item 17, page 28 (after line 13), after subclause 28R(6), insert:
(6A) A person who is or was the holder of a clinical trial licence or a clinical practice licence must take reasonable steps to ensure that information the person collects as required by subsection (1) or (3) is not disclosed to another person except for the purpose of complying with this Act.
(6B) A person who is or was any of the following must not disclose information collected as required by subsection (1) or (3) to another person except for the purpose of complying with this Act:
(a) the holder of a clinical trial licence or a clinical practice licence;
(b) an embryologist specified in such a licence;
(c) a person authorised by such a licence to carry out an activity authorised by the licence.
(6C) Subsections (6A) and (6B) apply despite a law of a State. However, those subsections do not prevent a person from disclosing information to a Registrar of births, deaths and marriages (however described) of a State in accordance with a law of that State relating to the notification or registration of births.
Note: A defendant bears an evidential burden in relation to the matter in this subsection (see subsection 13.3(3) of the Criminal Code).
(12) Schedule 1, item 17, page 28 (line 14), omit "and (6)", substitute ", (6), (6A) and (6B)".
(13) Schedule 1, item 17, page 28 (line 16), omit "the person", substitute "the person who is or was the holder of the licence".
(14) Schedule 1, item 17, page 28 (line 20), omit "or (6)", substitute ", (6), (6A) or (6B)".
(15) Schedule 1, page 45 (after line 9), after item 55, insert:
55A At the end of section 19
(4) A report under this section must not include information about any of the following matters unless the NHMRC Licensing Committee considers that the information does not identify, and is not reasonably capable of being used to identify, any person:
(a) approvals under subsection 28P(3) (including applications for such approvals and the outcomes of those applications);
(b) births of children as a result of pregnancies achieved using a mitochondrial donation technique under a clinical trial licence or a clinical practice licence;
(c) adverse events notified to the NHMRC Licensing Committee under paragraph 28S(3)(a).
(16) Schedule 1, item 103, page 55 (table item 2, column headed "Protected persons"), after "28J(4)", insert "or 28P(5A)".
(17) Schedule 1, item 17, page 26 (lines 11 to 17), omit paragraph 28Q(1)(d), substitute:
(d) that a human embryo created for a woman using the technique is not selected for implantation in that woman on the basis of the sex of the embryo.
The proposed government amendments will (1) clarify that donated mitochondria must be sourced from human eggs; (2) expand and clarify the circumstances for proper consent before mitochondrial donation treatment; (3) clarify the circumstances in which the Embryo Research Licensing Committee of the NHMRC is able to seek expert advice when performing its statutory functions; (4) enhance mitochondrial donor privacy by clarifying the operation of provisions that deal with the mitochondrial donation donor register; (5) further enhance privacy by ensuring that the Embryo Research Licensing Committee's statutory report to parliament cannot disclose identifiable personal information; and (6) address an issue raised by the recent review of the bill by the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee that relates to sex selection of embryos by providing that embryos created using mitochondrial donation techniques cannot be selected for implantation on the basis of their sex.
I thank all members of the House from the government, the opposition and the crossbench, those opposed to the bill and those supportive of the bill. I believe we have been able to strike an agreement on these measures which I understand are not controversial. I particularly thank the member for Menzies for his support and the member for Hindmarsh, the member for McMahon and the member for Mayo for their support. These clarify the bill and, I believe, address the concerns of those who may not ultimately vote for it, but I hope these amendments will find the support of all members of the House.
I rise to speak to these amendments to the Mitochondrial Donation Law Reform (Maeve's Law) Bill 2021, or, as we now know it, Maeve's law. As this is a conscience vote, I rise to speak not as a shadow assistant minister but as an individual MP. Before I go to the amendments, I would like to acknowledge every member of the House who has expressed their views in this chamber with respect and passion. It has been an honour to bear witness to this considered debate on an issue that raises age-old tensions between the advancements of technology and deeply seated faith based beliefs. I thank the community members, faith leaders, researchers and, of course, the mito community and the Mito Foundation in particular for all their hard work and consultation. And, of course, we acknowledge and thank Maeve's family.
To all the members of the commissions and parliamentary inquiries, I say thank you, especially to the member for Macarthur for taking the time to sit with me and go over this with long explanations and discussions. I pay tribute to the hard work of the minister in bringing this important bill to this House and the enormous amount of work that he has done. I pay tribute to past shadow health ministers, especially the member for McMahon, who has worked on this bill over the years. But in particular I would like to acknowledge the member for Hindmarsh, the shadow minister for health, who has shown great sensitivity and stewardship of this bill through our own party processes in this last leg of the bill's evolution. On speaking to these amendments, he has offered me very wise counsel, and I am pleased to say that we are absolutely on the same page in supporting these amendments. I thank him for his patience and clarity in explaining them not only to me but to all of the Labor MPs who sought his advice.
The amendments will do a number of important things. They will clarify that donated mitochondria must be sourced from human eggs. This was already a feature of the bill but, due to its importance, the amendments put it beyond doubt. They expand and clarify the circumstances in which proper consent is needed before mitochondrial donation techniques are used. They clarify the circumstances in which the Embryo Research Licensing Committee of the NHMRC is able to seek expert advice when performing its statutory functions. They enhance mitochondrial donor privacy by clarifying the operation of provisions that deal with the mitochondrial donation donor registry. They further enhance privacy by ensuring that the Embryo Research Licensing Committee statutory report to parliament can't disclose identifiable personal information. Finally, they address an issue raised by the recent review of the bill by the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee that relates to sex selection of embryos by providing that embryos created using the mitochondrial donation techniques cannot be selected for implantation on the basis of their sex.
This last point is a late addition to the amendments that is worthy of a little more explanation. The review of the bill by the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee, which delivered its report in August 2021, recommended that additional clarification or an amendment may be appropriate in relation to embryo sex selection. In particular, the committee questioned whether the provision of the bill that would enable a woman the option of selecting the sex of embryos is necessary and appropriate. This is especially the case as the inclusion of sex selection requires additional manipulation of embryos and can create additional risk to their viability. The government amendments omit this sex selection condition and insert a new licence condition in its place, meaning the selection of an embryo cannot be on the basis of sex.
On the basis of in-depth discussion with the member for Hindmarsh and other stakeholders in the mito community, it is clear that these amendments do not impinge on the purpose and promise of this bill. Therefore, I will be supporting them.
In conclusion, both the member for Hindmarsh and I support these amendments and this bill because, as the member for Hindmarsh said in his speech on the second reading:
… for all of the technical and ethical issues that this bill raises for members, ultimately these pieces of legislation are about people. They're about patients. In this case, they're about very young children and their parents, grandparents and wider families.
I support these amendments.
I don't think there's anyone here who has looked seriously at the Mitochondrial Donation Law Reform (Maeve's Law) Bill 2021 who hasn't spent a lot of time agonising over it. For some 76 years, every single educational institution in Australia has put Aldous Huxley's Brave New World on the reading list. Brave New World is about cloning and selling cells. When we had the cell debate here previously, the late Peter Andren—a person respected, I think, by every person in this House for his integrity and his intelligence, who was a very strong atheist or agnostic—and Tony Windsor voted 23 times against cell research. I was surprised because both of them were very antireligion, and it was looked at as sort of a religious issue. I quote Peter Andren. He said, 'I just cannot look forward to a society in which human beings are bought and sold on the shelves of Woolworths and Coles.'
I think, at the end of the day, that's a pretty good call. Educators in this country have left that book on the reading list, and have been determined that that book is on the reading list, for over 75 years. A lot of scientists, with all due respect to them, get carried away and start playing God, and this really is in that sort of pavilion. So I will be opposing the bill. The late and great Peter Andren, I think, gave a great example.
I commend the government on the amendments it's bringing forward this afternoon to the Mitochondrial Donation Law Reform (Maeve's Law) Bill 2021. As many members will know, including the few that were in the House at about 9 o'clock last night when I spoke on the second reading speech, I have serious reservations about four areas of this bill. Two of those areas of reservation are now being addressed by the amendments which the government is bringing forward. In particular, government amendment (15), which relates to reporting, puts in place a proper system of reporting, which was absent in the original bill. I will not be proceeding with my amendment to enhance reporting because that's being done by what the government has brought forward in these amendments.
More significantly, government amendment (17), which goes to the issue of sex selection, was the reverse in the bill. Indeed, section 28Q of the bill originally before the parliament provided that sex selection could occur under the techniques provided for in this bill. That, I believe, for many people, is a novel step too far. It's unnecessary for the operation of these techniques if they are proven to be safe and efficacious in the future. That was why I was proposing an amendment that would have banned, or removed from the bill, the ability to actually sex select.
As the government has now brought forward this amendment, which will have the same effect as the one I have circulated to honourable members, I indicate to members in the chamber that I will not be proceeding with that particular amendment. Once again, I commend the government on doing so in relation to both this and to much more adequate record keeping and reporting to the parliament on what's proposed to happen under this research.
Question agreed to.
I move to the other two areas of reservation which have not been covered in the government's amendments to the bill. I move my amendment (2):
(2) Schedule 1, page 6 (after line 36), after item 10, insert:
10A At the end of Division 1 of Part 2
9A Minimum data required before clinical practice stage
Before the Governor-General makes regulations declaring a mitochondrial donation technique for the purposes of the definition of permitted technique in section 8, the Minister must be satisfied that there is sufficient clinical evidence that the technique has been used on 5 trial participants.
I will come to the others as a batch if I have leave of the House. What amendment (2) does is very simple. It inserts a further basic safeguard into the bill, namely that before the clinical practice stage—that is, the stage when these techniques would be used in general clinical practice applicable to those who might qualify after the research is undertaken—the minister must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence that the technique has been used on five trial participants. Now, this is a very small number of participants in a trial in order to then move to the next stage. The amendment doesn't prescribe how the minister must be satisfied. It simply provides further assurance that a small number of trials, namely five, have been undertaken.
Many might argue that five is an insufficient number—'Why shouldn't it be 10, 15, 20 or an even greater number than that?' But I believe that this would add some further assurance that the minister is satisfied, without prescribing how the minister has to be satisfied, that there have been five trials undertaken and that it's okay to move to the clinical-use stage. It provides more assurance about the efficacy and the safeties of the procedures and techniques being utilised. I can't understand why anyone would not vote in favour of putting this safeguard in place. It doesn't do anything to stop the trials continuing. It simply provides a further assurance to the parliament through the minister that, indeed, this is something which has been achieved.
I put that in the context that this research has been undertaken in the UK for some five to six years now. One of the published papers from last year from the scientists involved, who are proponents of the research, was still talking about this being research that may have potential in the future. This is after five or six years of research. It said that questions about the safety and efficacy of the research are still to be determined in terms of their research program they're undertaking. In the context of that, I think this is a small, further assurance so that the parliament and, through this parliament, the people of Australia can be assured that, if this step is taken to go to general clinical application of these techniques sometime in the future, the minister is satisfied.
I could labour the point over point over and over again, but a Federal Court judge once told me that repeating my argument didn't help it, so I will sit down on that note!
The advice provided to my officers and to my office is that, after a very long period of time, there has not been a single life saved. There was a saying in the law when I was associated with the law that 'hard cases make bad law', and we are moving into a very dangerous environment here. I think all of you have read Aldous Huxley. I think you'll want to think twice about what you're doing.
by leave—I move amendments (7) to (16) together:
(7) Schedule 1, item 19, page 34 (line 4), omit the definition of pronuclear transfer.
(8) Schedule 1, item 19, page 34 (line 5), omit the definition of second polar body transfer.
(9) Schedule 1, item 20, page 34 (line 15), omit paragraph 7A(b).
(10) Schedule 1, item 20, page 34 (line 17), omit "transfer;", substitute "transfer.".
(11) Schedule 1, item 20, page 34 (line 18), omit paragraph 7A(e).
(12) Schedule 1, item 20, page 35 (cell at table item 1, column headed "the permitted techniques are …", paragraph (b)), omit the paragraph.
(13) Schedule 1, item 20, page 35 (cell at table item 1, column headed "the permitted techniques are …", paragraph (e)), omit the paragraph.
(14) Schedule 1, item 20, page 35 (cell at table item 2, column headed "the permitted techniques are …" ), omit the cell, substitute:
maternal spindle transfer
(15) Schedule 1, item 20, page 35 (line 14) to page 36 (line 4), omit section 7D.
(16) Schedule 1, item 20, page 36 (line 29) to page 37 (line 8), omit section 7G.
These amendments go to what I believe is a fundamental area of difference in terms of the ethical consideration of this matter, and I'll put it in this context: there are essentially five techniques which are provided for in this bill, but they can be split into two categories. There's a category of mitochondrial techniques which involve the transfer of material between eggs—namely, the maternal spindle transfer and the geminal vesicle transfer. They don't involve any destruction of an embryo in order to undertake those techniques. There are three other techniques that involve transfer of material between zygotes or embryos—namely, pronuclear transfer, first polar body transfer and second polar body transfer. These three techniques involve, necessarily as part of the undertaking of the procedure, the destruction of a zygote or an embryo.
I note in passing that under the bill only two techniques—namely, maternal spindle transfer and pronuclear transfer—are permitted for the clinical trial licence phase. But one of these techniques—namely, pronuclear transfer—involves the destruction of the zygote or the embryo. Accordingly, these amendments, when taken together, would remove from the bill those techniques or procedures which result in the destruction of the embryo. It would allow mitochondrial research to be undertaken involving the gametes, the egg and the sperm, but it wouldn't involve the destruction of an embryo. For me, that is a line at the end of the day consistent with the view that I took almost 20 years ago when we were discussing stem cell research and cell therapy at that time—that there is a line between techniques which do not involve the destruction of an embryo and the techniques which do involve the destruction of the embryo.
Given the experimental nature of what has been proposed, the absence of any data from the UK, as I referred to earlier, and the lack of any evidence that these techniques will achieve what is proposed, I believe it is entirely reasonable to ban the deliberate destruction of a zygote or an embryo at this stage. Moreover, we're told that this research is probably going to take 10 years or more even at the very basic stage, so, if there is some further evidence that arises from the research over the coming years, then it's entirely appropriate for this parliament to address it again sometime in the future. But I, and I suspect some others in this place, believe that at this stage it's inappropriate to allow techniques to go forward which would involve the destruction, necessarily as part of that technique, of the embryo, and that's why I've moved these particular amendments. Again, I could speak at much greater length, but I suspect that members understand what the position is that I'm putting in relation to these amendments. I commend the amendments to the House.
I'm not coming at this from the classical religious point of view that an embryo is life. Probably the greatest man I've ever met in my life was Dr Harvey Sutton, who was an Anglican priest as well as a doctor and a man revered in his lifetime. He said that an embryo was not a life. He was very anti-abortion, but they are two separate issues. So I'm not going at this from a classical religious point of view.
I've been a cattleman all my life, and you line breed, but if you line breed very assiduously you will get some very serious problems. I think most people who read history books know the aristocracy in Europe had dreadful problems because they were inbred.
An honourable member interjecting —
Look, it's a serious matter, and I don't think it requires frivolity. I really don't.
An honourable member interjecting —
The member is laughing. I mean, he seriously thinks it is a funny matter.
My generation watched movies like 'Dr Moreau's island', and they were very, very scary.
Once you are start playing God, I think that's where we're going here. I really do. I would bring to the attention of the House that, however intelligent you think you are as far as line breeding is concerned, the aristocracy of Europe would provide a very strong argument against that line of thinking. Even though you don't believe that's where you are going here, I think you are going in that direction.
ES (—) (): I want to indicate my support for the amendment. I thank everybody who's participated in this debate. I think it's been held and conducted in a way that brings great credit to this House. I, like many, was very disappointed, at the outset of the whole debate on mitochondrial donation, to be simply advised that we can't get any information about the progress of this research that has been going on since 2015 in the United Kingdom. We're prevented from having any access to that on privacy grounds. That means that we must now start from ground zero in starting to look at all these issues.
It takes me back a little bit. Those of us who were around the House in 2006 will remember that we had the therapeutic cloning legislation being debated here. The big aspect then—and there was a lot of hype, I must say, associated with it—was the demand for embryonic stem cell research. All of these potential benefits were being discussed pretty openly by politicians—that's what we are—and not necessarily by all the researchers, other than those who ran the various research laboratories. Some laboratories specialise in embryonic stem cell research, while others specialise in adult stem cell research. Since 2006, the great gains for humanity have come out of the adult stem cell research. Does that mean we're setting up research facilities just to experiment to see what happens? Surely, if the UK were making progress, there would be something that we would know about it. I know that a lot of our research scientists are getting very excited about these techniques.
The other thing I wanted to say is that what I said about embryos in 2006 is that embryos should be afforded the same respect from the moment of creation, regardless of the method, intention and age. I've got to say that remains my position now, but my position could be internally challenged on my part if it could be shown that there are overwhelming benefits to humanity. Yet there's no information out there, so there's no justification for saying there's an overwhelming benefit to humanity. We're just going to see what happens. To me, it's a bridge too far. I didn't like the media reporting of my views on this. The reporting referred to me as a Catholic, which I am, but I took great pains not to take briefings from the church or from other vested interests, although I must admit I spent a lot of time with Mike Freelander, a good friend of mine, who explained to me a fair bit about it, because he has treated children who had mitochondrial disorders. But I thought: 'This is a conscience vote. This has to be what you really believe.' My personal view, and my strong belief, is that simply conducting research on the basis that you will destroy human embryos in the process is a bridge too far.
I rise to acknowledge my support for these amendments. I've given a speech on this already. I also concur with the views of the previous speaker. I think it's very limiting when people say, 'I don't know what's wrong with your argument, but I'm going to talk about your religion.' I don't think that wins any argument; that just reinforces a previous conceit.
I think the issue is probabilities, possibilities and risks. There is no definite example—in fact, there is no example—of success through this process in the United Kingdom. They've been with it for five years. We all understand the scourges of mitochondrial disease. We absolutely understand it. But there has to be some form of deliberate attachment to success that they've seen, and we haven't seen that.
We are making, I believe, a large ethical step—saying that we will create human life for the sole purpose of destroying it. That is something that crosses a boundary for many of us. It calls on us to deal with the scourge of mitochondrial disease but not in so doing to avail ourselves of any other, further mechanisms of proscribing it. I won't delay the House, but I think it's incredibly important that we understand exactly what we're about to vote on here.
This is probably one of the most difficult speeches I will make in this House because of the import of it. I've got so many conflicted interpretations of why I'm saying this. It's not because I'm in the health portfolio or because I am a Christian and a Catholic. My concern about the technology which this bill will enable is about potentially creating a whole new blended germ line of human life.
As the member for Kennedy outlined, it is amazing technology. The doctor in me, having worked in paediatrics and seen unfortunate kids with these mitochondrial diseases, understands that they are horrible diseases. I understand that. All of us understand that, and we want people not to go through that suffering. But the technology here is still experimental. It is very experimental. There are cells for everything, but your germ line cells go down through generations, so if it goes wrong you might be creating an unintended bad outcome. According to my ethics, which are independent but aligned with Christian thinking, we shouldn't be doing this.
If a family is afflicted by this disease and the mother wants to bear a child, we do have technology where a donor egg can be implanted. But it doesn't involve the destruction of experimental embryos, basically, and it's not going to potentially enable cloning technology of humans to advance, with unintended consequences to the germ line mutation. I support the amendments brought by the member for Menzies, but I won't be supporting the bill.
I want to commend the amendments that have been put to the House. There are many bioethical dilemmas with the bill that is before us. I, for one, have met with a sufferer of this horrific ailment, and I do feel massive sorrow around the fact that I cannot vote for the bill if the bill doesn't have these amendments. It is a serious affliction. I've spoken to this girl at length about that affliction and what it has caused for her life.
I realise right here and now that those people do deserve some form of hope.
There are two bioethical dilemmas, one being the issue of essentially three sets of DNA being in a new human being. I'm willing to put my concerns on that to the side. But where I can't put my concerns to the side is around the destruction of human life. I just do not believe that we can destroy human life to alleviate the suffering, or the potential suffering, of another human life. Knowing that this process, this treatment, hasn't resulted in anything that is successful as yet leads me to say that we probably shouldn't destroy human life.
I do commend the amendments and I hope the amendments are supported, because if the amendments were supported, I would support the bill, and I suspect there might be other people that would support the bill.
Some members might have listened to my speech on this last night. In the course of my speech, I made several observations. Indeed, I referred to a paper that the member for Menzies alluded to only a few moments ago. It's a paper by some researchers at Newcastle University in England that was released only a year ago, which, again, raises serious concerns about this matter. In particular, I am guided by the submission from the Robinson Research Institute in Adelaide. I have visited that institute and I have spoken to the researchers there—not recently, but some time ago. It's a research institute that is associated with the University of Adelaide. It's a research institute that focuses on these very issues, and one that I have considerable confidence in, having visited their facilities and been taken through all of the work that they do.
I quoted a particular passage of their submission to the Senate committee inquiry, which I want to repeat for the benefit of those members who might not have listened to my speech. It says: 'In summary, our primary concerns with the currently proposed mitochondrial donation law reform are that: (1) it allows genome modification in human embryos; and (2) the possibility that children conceived in this manner could have developmental defects because the technology has not been tested and refined to a level appropriate for clinical use. We believe that it is essential to answer the above questions by conducting further research before mitochondrial donation be permitted for use to treat carriers of mitochondrial DNA disease.'
I believe that their concerns are ones based on some of the best researchers we have in this country. In particular, when they talk about developmental defects, that is a matter that concerns me. The technology has not been proven. Indeed, if it had been, I suspect that we would have had some reports coming out of the UK to confirm that. The fact that we haven't raises those concerns. My concerns are not based on ethical, religious reasons or otherwise. They are based on the research, and I've done a fair bit of reading on this, that points me in the direction that says that there are still untested and untried processes involved in all of this. For those reasons, I believe the amendments are quite reasonable and should be supported.
My question just goes to the amendments put forward by the member for Menzies. Am I to understand that, if the amendments put forward in their entirety were to be agreed to, the member for Menzies would be in support of the bill as it stands on the table? I think, if that is the case, I'd be happy to support the amendments.
I rise to make a clarification around a technical point, as a paediatrician and someone who has worked in stem cell research and, in fact, worked for a long time at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, where Professor David Thorburn, who's one of the pre-eminent scientists in the area, works. I have a significant amount of background in this area and have also worked in the area of the ethics of new technology.
We know that throughout history new technology has been something that has benefited Australia and, indeed, the world over and over again. Every time there is new medical technology that has an ethical dimension to it, it comes to places like this parliament to make important decisions. It's probably worth reminding that at each point it's important that the conversation and the debate is had right across the whole spectrum of belief systems, but sometimes there can be some technical things that people are confused about. For example, 40, 50 years ago there were a lot of concerns about organ transplantation and donation. In fact, some faith based communities believed it would create monsters of humans. There were many debates and ethical concerns about whether indeed we would have Frankenstein people as a result, because where is the soul based? Is it based in an organ or in the soul of a person? There have been a lot of changes over many decades. IVF is another example where there has been a change in technology.
When it comes to the question raised by the member for Menzies, the two types of techniques that are being discussed do make a big difference to whether this technology is likely to be successful or not. The PNT, the pronuclear transfer, technology is the one that is leading the way with regard to the technology discoveries that are being talked about. If we were to support the MST, the maternal spindle transfer, technique, that is less likely to be successful. So, if you are to vote for one over the other, then you are more likely to vote against the technology being able to be supported and therefore being successful in the treatment of this condition. I just wanted to make that technical point.
I also want to finally make the point that, as a doctor—and I know that you, Mr Deputy Speaker Freelander, will have had this experience—over and over again I find that people will be very clear about their views until they have to face those medical ethical questions themselves. Organ donation is a great example. So often people will say it's incredibly distasteful to think about organ donation for a loved one, but if you ask, 'Would you like to receive an organ donation?' their views can often change.
I'd like to just point out that the member for Mayo made a very wonderful speech last night. I think, for anyone who would like to have a look at it, it's a beautiful speech expressing how it's impacted her family. As a paediatrician—I know you, Mr Deputy Speaker, feel like me about this—I think it's very important we remember that the theories we're talking about here have a direct effect on individuals, and it could be one of us in the room at some point. I'm very supportive of the fact that we're talking about these different techniques, but the technique that we're talking about with the member for Menzies is not the technique that is likely to be successful for this technology going forward.
Very briefly, the analogy with organ donation I think is misplaced. There is no transference in terms of what might happen in the future when an organ is donated in terms of the DNA from that organ, and that is a difference in this regard.