9 May 2007
The Upper House of the state Parliament of Victoria, Australia, has voted 23 to 16 in favour of permitting therapeutic cloning for the creation of stem cells for medical research (see Infertility Treatment Amendment Bill 2007). Therapeutic cloning refers to the creation of a human embryo by somatic cell nuclear transfer, whereby an enucleated human oocyte (egg cell) is fused with a nucleus taken from an adult human cell. Human reproductive cloning will remain illegal.
This move followed a decision in December 2006 by the Australian federal government House of Representatives to amend earlier legislation preventing the cloning of human embryos for stem cell research (see further information on this Stem Cell Research Bill). The new law will only come into effect when each state has ratified it. Victoria is the first state to pass equivalent legislation on therapeutic cloning, but decisions from the states of New South Wales and Queensland are expected to follow soon. If all the states ratify the new law, Australia will have legislation comparable to that of the UK and other countries where therapeutic cloning is permitted, such as China, Japan and South Korea. Many European countries have more restrictive laws, as does the US.