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Lockdowns, Masks, & The Illusion Of Government Control Over COVID

Lockdowns, Masks, & The Illusion Of Government Control Over COVID

Authored by Brian McGlinchey via Stark Realities,

In the early 11th century, King Canute—while at the peak of his power—set out to demonstrate to his fawning courtiers…

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Lockdowns, Masks, & The Illusion Of Government Control Over COVID

Authored by Brian McGlinchey via Stark Realities,

In the early 11th century, King Canute—while at the peak of his power—set out to demonstrate to his fawning courtiers the limited power of royal edicts. After having his throne placed by the sea’s edge, he sat down and commanded the tide to stop rising. When the water began washing over his feet, he declared, "Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings."

Nearly a thousand years later, facing a different force of nature—Covid-19—an entire global generation of presidents, prime ministers, governors, mayors, public health officials, scientists and citizens is being given the same lesson. However, where Canute’s lesson sprang from his humility, this lesson springs from the hubris of the present-day ruling class and the credulity of the masses who place far too much faith in their rulers’ power.

The lesson was pointedly driven home on July 19th. That was "Freedom Day" in the United Kingdom, with government ending restrictions on social contact, allowing the reopening of remaining establishments such as nightclubs, and abandoning mask mandates.

Two weeks before Freedom Day, as the Delta relentlessly pushed the UK’s case count higher, 122 prominent scientists and doctors submitted a letter to The Lancet calling the planned easing of restrictions "a dangerous and unethical experiment."

On the eve of Freedom Day, the UK’s daily case count was over 40,000. Imperial College London mathematical biologist Neil Ferguson told the BBC it was "almost inevitable" the end of restrictions would prompt daily cases to soar to 100,000 and perhaps even 200,000.

Mother Nature was about to deliver a harsh comeuppance to Ferguson and others who’d have us believe government restrictions and mask mandates offer a potent defense against Covid contagion: Cases promptly went into a two-week free fall.

Daily New Cases in the United Kingdom

In addition to fostering well-founded doubt about the benefits of lockdowns and face coverings, the turn of events should also cultivate healthy skepticism about the pronouncements of the public health establishment. Hopefully, Ferguson’s particular humiliation will immunize officials, journalists and citizens against trusting Imperial College London’s Covid-19 models.

Those models, which played a key role in enabling unprecedented, draconian lockdowns around the world—have been wildly wrong again and again. For example, Imperial College London projected Sweden’s relaxed approach to Covid-19 would leave nearly 100,000 Swedes dead by July 1, 2020. The actual count: 5,700.

The United States has endured its own false alarms about what will happen when government-imposed restrictions are eased. Grim predictions and accusations of gubernatorial indifference to human life accompanied the ending of restrictions and mandates in states like Iowa, Texas and Florida, and proved as wrong as the ones made in the UK last month.

Lacking Canute’s humility and undaunted by contrary evidence, the great majority of officials, scientists and pundits who’ve favored coercive government measures have proven stubbornly incapable of entertaining the possibility that these interventions—which have boosted depressionsuicidealcohol abusedrug overdosesdomestic violence and undiagnosed canceraren’t a net positive for public health after all.

That resistance to contrary evidence extends to a great many everyday citizens whose unwavering support of lockdowns, business restrictions, remote schooling and mask mandates is part of a politicized tribal identity.

Exasperatingly, that tribe embraces "trust science" as a mantra, oblivious to the fact that the scientific method hinges on the reliable replication of results that supports one’s theory—something sorely lacking where lockdowns, masking and other measures are concerned.

The "trust science" crowd is likewise oblivious to the fact that scientists are far from unanimous in supporting those government-imposed nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), and that highly-credentialed scientists from esteemed institutions are among the most vigorous dissenters.

The most prominent demonstration of such dissent came with the October 2020 "Great Barrington Declaration." Led by professors from Harvard, Oxford and Stanford, epidemiologists and public health scientists from around the world expressed their "grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies."

The declaration has now been signed by more than 58,000 medical and public health scientists and medical practitioners. Their numbers and credentials don’t guarantee their views are correct; however, they do bely the presumption of a scientific consensus behind coercive mitigation policies. Among three original Stanford signatories to the declaration is biophysics professor and Nobel Prize recipient Michael Levitt. He and a group of Stanford and international scholars have been analyzing Covid-19 data since January 2020.

Referring to the steep drop in cases after UK restrictions were eased, Levitt recently asked the Twitter-verse: "Can anyone show clear correlation between NPI or other restrictions & reduced COVID-19 cases anywhere? I keep trying & failing. We really need to know this to deal better with future pandemics."

Levitt isn’t the only reputable scientist who sees little if any correlation between government-imposed NPIs and Covid-19 trajectories. "We’ve ascribed far too much human authority over the virus," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, in a recent interview with the New York Times. "These surges have little to do with what humans do. Only recently, with vaccines, have we begun to have a real impact."

"We had record high cases, hospitalizations and deaths in January, followed by a precipitous decline throughout February and into March…this does not reflect anything to do with…human mitigation. This is the natural ebb and flow of the virus we’ve seen time and again around the world," said Osterholm on his Covid-19 podcast.

In that vein, those who exclusively attribute today’s surging case counts in southern states to lagging vaccination rates and purported local mismanagement should note that:

  • The southern wave’s timing roughly parallels the region’s 2020 summer surge, which should prompt consideration that seasonality—alongside Delta’s greater transmissibility among even the vaccinated—may be the dominant driver

  • While Florida is considered the new epicenter of the pandemic, the state’s vaccination rate matches the national average

  • Oregon, despite an above-average vaccination rate, is experiencing its own sharp spike—but has been spared the kind of contemptuous scorn that journalists and Democratic politicians heap on Republican-led Florida

Every NPI Deserves Scrutiny

Over the course of the pandemic, some anti-Covid-19 measures have fallen out of favor in light of new findings and observations. For example, with the understanding that surface transmission of Covid-19 is extremely unlikely, far fewer people are wiping groceries with Clorox.

Perhaps because they’re bolted into place, the nation’s thicket of plexiglass dividers have shown more staying power, despite research indicating they may not only be futile, but could actually be making matters worse by thwarting ventilation. In March, the CDC withdrew its recommendation for barriers on school desks, but has apparently stopped short of discouraging their broad use elsewhere.

Though it’s now socially acceptable to question the use of disinfectants and plexiglass, questioning masks can get you suspended from social media and tarred as a promoter of disinformation—even when you’re citing peer-reviewed studies. However, with other widely-embraced mitigation measures fading in light of new data, intellectually honest people should be equally open to the question of whether widespread face-covering—particularly with anything other than an N-95 mask—is worthwhile.

That forbidden discussion is starting to creep into mainstream media. In a recent appearance on CNN, the University of Minnesota’s Osterholm—a former Covid-19 advisor to President Biden—caused a stir by saying, "We know today that many of the face cloth coverings that people wear are not very effective in reducing any of the virus movement in or out." That’s because Covid-19 particles are astoundingly small. Hard as it to imagine, the imperceptible gaps in surgical masks can be 1,000 times the size of a viral particle. Gaps in cloth masks are well larger than that.

Osterholman has offered a highly relatable standard by which to judge if a particular face covering serves as a meaningful barrier against particles that small: "If you were in a room with somebody smoking, would you smell it in your device that you are using?" That standard not only eliminates cloth masks, but surgical ones too.

Beyond the realities of nanoparticle science and the conclusions of previous studies, the case for masking is undermined by what we’ve observed during the pandemic. Sweden, for example, never widely embraced masking. While its per capita Covid death count is well higher than neighboring Finland and Norway, it’s the 15th lowest out of the 31 European Union countries and the UK.

If face-covering were such an essential life-saving practice, Sweden wouldn’t be found in the middle of the EU pack. It would be dead last. That said, using Covid-19 death counts alone to evaluate outcomes is problematic. Different testing protocols can mean an individual would be positive in one country and negative in another. Jurisdictions also differ in what exactly comprises a Covid-19 death—was it a death from Covid or merely with Covid?

More importantly, though, when we solely focus on Covid-19 deaths, we ignore the suicides, fatal overdoses and other unintended deaths that result from the lockdowns themselves. That’s why it’s best to compare countries using excess all-cause mortality: total deaths beyond what’s expected in a normal year. By that measure, lockdown- and mask-eschewing Sweden had one of the best 2020 excess mortality rates in all of Europe—23rd-lowest out of 30 countries.

(It again trailed Finland and Norway, but a variety of factors undermine the idea they present a full-on apples-to-apples comparison; what’s more, by some measures, Finland and Norway had even less stringent policies during the first several months of the pandemic.)

CDC is "Following the TV Pundits"

Vinay Prasad is an associate professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco and co-author of Ending Medical Reversal: Improving Outcomes, Saving Lives. "Medical reversal" is what happens when new data shows a commonly-accepted practice is not helpful—or is actually harmful.

Decrying the lack of randomized trials backing many Covid-19 policies, Prasad recently wrote, "When it comes to non-pharmacologic interventions such as mandatory business closures, mask mandates, and countless other interventions, the shocking conclusion of the last 18 months is this: We have learned next to nothing."

Referring to the CDC’s decision to once again recommend universal indoor masking in areas of higher Covid-19 transmission, Prasad wrote, "The CDC director calls this 'following the science,' but it is not. It is following the TV pundits."

While declaring his openness to the possibility that masking can be an effective public health intervention, Prasad says mandates should be driven by evidence—and that the CDC isn’t offering any.

Prasad, who doesn’t shy away from endorsing coercive government action when he thinks it’s warranted, concludes:

"When the history books are written about the use of non-pharmacologic measures during this pandemic, we will look as pre-historic and barbaric and tribal as our ancestors during the plagues of the middle ages. What the books won't capture is how, in the moment, our experts were simply so sure of themselves."

* * *

Stark Realities undermines official narratives, demolishes conventional wisdom and exposes fundamental myths across the political spectrum. Read more and subscribe at https://starkrealities.substack.com/

Tyler Durden Sat, 08/14/2021 - 12:30

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UC Riverside physicist awarded National Medal of Science

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Physicist Barry C. Barish, a distinguished professor of physics and astronomy at UC Riverside, was awarded the National Medal…

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RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Physicist Barry C. Barish, a distinguished professor of physics and astronomy at UC Riverside, was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Joe Biden at a ceremony held at the White House today. Established in 1959 by the U.S. Congress, the National Medal of Science is the highest recognition the nation can bestow on scientists and engineers.

Credit: Stan Lim, UC Riverside.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Physicist Barry C. Barish, a distinguished professor of physics and astronomy at UC Riverside, was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Joe Biden at a ceremony held at the White House today. Established in 1959 by the U.S. Congress, the National Medal of Science is the highest recognition the nation can bestow on scientists and engineers.

The President’s National Medal of Science is given to individuals “deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions in biology, computer sciences, education sciences, engineering, geosciences, mathematical and physical sciences, and social, behavioral, and economic sciences, in service to the Nation.” It is administered by National Science Foundation.

Barish was recognized for “exemplary service to science, including groundbreaking research on sub-atomic particles. His leadership of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory led to the first detection of gravitational waves from merging black holes, confirming a key part of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. He has broadened our understanding of the universe and our Nation’s sense of wonder and discovery.”

“UCR congratulates Prof. Barish on receiving the National Medal of Science,” said UCR Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox. “The distinguished names of previous winners make this recognition very exceptional. Prof. Barish is a strong inspiration for our students, researchers, and faculty. UCR continues to benefit from his extraordinary achievements.”

Barish won the 2017 Nobel Prize in physics for the discovery of gravitational waves. He joined the UCR faculty in 2018. He earned his bachelor’s degree in physics in 1957 and his doctorate in experimental particle physics in 1962, both from from UC Berkeley. He joined Caltech as a postdoc in 1963, became a professor in 1966, and was appointed Linde Professor of Physics in 1991. He led the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO, effort from its inception through the final design stages, and in subsequent discoveries. In 1997, he created the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which enables more than 1,000 collaborators worldwide to participate in LIGO.

Barish has served on many committees, including co-chairing the subpanel of the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel that developed a long-range plan for U.S. high-energy physics in 2001. He chaired the Commission of Particles and Fields and the U.S. Liaison Committee to the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics.

He is the recipient of the Fudan-Zhongzhi Science Award (China), Princess of Asturias Prize for Science and Technology (Spain), Giuseppe and Vanna Cocconi Prize from the European Physical Society, the Enrico Fermi Prize from the Italian Physical Society, and the Klopsteg Award from the American Association of Physics Teachers. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, which awarded him the Henry Draper Medal. From 2003 to 2010, he served as a presidential appointee to the National Science Board.

He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Physical Society, where he also served as president. He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Bologna, University of Florida, University of Glasgow, and Universitat de València in Spain. He has been inducted as honorary academician into the Royal Academy of European Doctors, based in Spain. He was elected a foreign member of the Royal Society in 2019. Last year, he won the Copernicus Prize, bestowed by the government of Poland. Earlier this year, he was elected a corresponding member of the Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts of Barcelona. 

The University of California, Riverside is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California’s diverse culture, UCR’s enrollment is more than 26,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual impact of more than $2.7 billion on the U.S. economy. To learn more, visit www.ucr.edu.


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Public support for extending the 14-day rule on human embryo research indicated by foundational dialogue project

The findings of a foundational UK public dialogue on human embryo research are published today, Wednesday 25th October 2023, as part of the Wellcome-funded…

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The findings of a foundational UK public dialogue on human embryo research are published today, Wednesday 25th October 2023, as part of the Wellcome-funded Human Developmental Biology Initiative (HDBI). The HDBI is an ambitious scientific endeavour to advance our understanding of human development. The dialogue project, which was co-funded by UKRI Sciencewise programme, engaged a diverse group of the public to consider how early human embryo research can be used to its fullest, the 14-day rule and the fast-paced field of stem cell-based embryo models.

Credit: Dr Matteo Molè (Babraham Institute)

The findings of a foundational UK public dialogue on human embryo research are published today, Wednesday 25th October 2023, as part of the Wellcome-funded Human Developmental Biology Initiative (HDBI). The HDBI is an ambitious scientific endeavour to advance our understanding of human development. The dialogue project, which was co-funded by UKRI Sciencewise programme, engaged a diverse group of the public to consider how early human embryo research can be used to its fullest, the 14-day rule and the fast-paced field of stem cell-based embryo models.

Headline findings include:

  • Appetite for review of the 14-day rule: Participants recognised that extending the 14-day rule could open up ways to achieve benefits in fertility and health, with participant support for reviewing this, including national discussion.
  • Confidence in regulation: There was a high level of confidence in how human embryo research is regulated, despite a low level of awareness of the regulators and statutes themselves. This included strong desire to see robust regulation governing any changes to the 14-day rule and further regulation for the use of stem cell-based embryo models.
  • Support for improved fertility and health outcomes: The strongest hopes for future human embryo research were where new knowledge would deliver improvements in understanding miscarriage, preventing health conditions such as spina bifida and raising the success rates of IVF procedures.
  • Concerns about genetically engineering humans: The public expressed concerns on the application of developments in this field to genetically alter or engineer humans.

The dialogue engaged a group of 70 people broadly reflective of the UK population in over 15 hours of activities including a series of online and face-to-face workshops with scientists, ethicists, philosophers, policy makers and people with relevant lived experience (such as embryo donors from IVF procedures).

Dr Peter Rugg-Gunn, scientific lead for the HDBI and senior group leader at the Babraham Institute, said: “Recent scientific advances bring incredible new opportunities to study and understand the earliest stages of human development. To ensure this research remains aligned with society’s values and expectations, we must listen and respond to public desires and concerns. This public dialogue is an important first step and as a scientist I am reassured by the findings but there is still a long way to go to fully understand this complex issue.” 

The report is exceedingly timely, following notable scientific advances in human developmental biology presented at conferences and in leading scientific journals in recent months. As well as generating excitement in scientific fields and with the public, announcement of these breakthroughs also prompted some concerns and criticisms, with the view that these findings raised significant ethical issues. The dialogue provides insight into public considerations following deliberation on early human embryo research. The hope is that it will act as a foundational reference point that others in the sectors can build upon, such as in any future review of the law on embryo research.

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, co-chair of the HDBI Oversight group, senior group leader and head of the Laboratory of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at the Francis Crick Institute, said: “We have learnt a lot about human development before 14 days, but there are areas of investigation that could change how we understand development, and associated diseases, that lie beyond our current window of knowledge. Despite low awareness of current laws, members of the public quickly recognised many of the critical issues researchers are keenly aware of when it comes to growing embryos beyond the current limit. This dialogue also reinforced the fact that the public are in support of research that will yield better health outcomes, and in this case, increase the success of IVF procedures.

Other countries will be looking to the UK to see how we deal with the 14-day rule; we are not there yet with any mandate to make a change, but this does give a strong pointer. The next step will be to delve deeper into some of the topics raised through this dialogue as they apply to specific areas of research, as well as feeding into policy changes.”

The 14-day rule and the regulation of stem cell-based models

When considering the regulation of research involving human embryos, the dialogue explored participant’s views on the 14-day rule. Introduced in 1990, the 14-day rule is a limit enforced by statute in the UK. It applies to early human embryos that are donated by consent to research and embryos that are created for research from donated sperm and eggs. It limits the amount of time early human embryos can be developed in a laboratory for scientific study to 14 days after fertilisation. Due to technical advances, it is now possible to grow embryos in the lab past 14 days, but researchers are not allowed to by the law. If the law changed, it would open up this ‘black box’ of development with researchers able to investigate this crucial time in development from 14-28 days after fertilisation.

Professor Bobbie Farsides, co-chair of the HDBI Oversight group and Professor of Clinical and Biomedical Ethics at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, said: “It has been a fascinating experience to support HDBI in the undertaking of this exercise.  I commend the participants for the care and mutual respect they have shown throughout. Their engagement and commitment to a subject few of them had previously considered allowed for a wide range of views to be expressed and considered. I hope the scientists involved will be encouraged by the high level of interest in their work, and will want to keep the public conversation going around these important subjects.”

The dialogue included participant discussion on what a change to the 14-day rule might look like, and identified points that should be considered, such as defining what the benefits of extending the rule would be and potential mis-alignment with human embryo research regulations in other countries.

Participants acknowledged the astonishing possibilities of stem cell-based embryo models. The majority of participants would like to see these models further regulated. Work in establishing potential governance mechanisms is already underway. In recognition of the need for additional guidance and regulation in this area, the Cambridge Reproduction initiative launched a project in March 2023 to develop a governance framework for research using stem cell-based embryo models and to promote responsible, transparent and accountable research.

Future steps

A key outcome from the public dialogue is the identification of areas for further exploration, with participants proposing how future national conversations might be shaped. It is hoped that the project acts as a reference base for both widening engagement with the subject and also prompting deeper exploration of areas of concern.

Dr Michael Norman, HDBI Public Dialogue coordinator and Public Engagement Manager at the Babraham Institute, said: “This dialogue shows that people want the public to work closely with scientists and the government to shape both future embryo research legislation and scientific research direction. It is crucial that others in the sector build on these high quality, two-way engagement methodologies that allow for a genuine exchange of views and information to ensure that the public’s desires and concerns are listened to and respected. Transparency and openness around science is vital for public trust and through this we, as a society, can shape UK research in way that enriches the outcomes for all.”

Public Participant (Broad public group, south) said: “I do think that an extension of this public dialogue, and educating a wider society has a benefit in itself. This is really complex and sensitive and the wider you talk about it before decisions are made, the better.”


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Public support for extending the 14-day rule on human embryo research indicated by foundational dialogue project

The findings of a foundational UK public dialogue on human embryo research are published today, Wednesday 25th October 2023, as part of the Wellcome-funded…

Published

on

The findings of a foundational UK public dialogue on human embryo research are published today, Wednesday 25th October 2023, as part of the Wellcome-funded Human Developmental Biology Initiative (HDBI). The HDBI is an ambitious scientific endeavour to advance our understanding of human development. The dialogue project, which was co-funded by UKRI Sciencewise programme, engaged a diverse group of the public to consider how early human embryo research can be used to its fullest, the 14-day rule and the fast-paced field of stem cell-based embryo models.

Credit: Dr Matteo Molè (Babraham Institute)

The findings of a foundational UK public dialogue on human embryo research are published today, Wednesday 25th October 2023, as part of the Wellcome-funded Human Developmental Biology Initiative (HDBI). The HDBI is an ambitious scientific endeavour to advance our understanding of human development. The dialogue project, which was co-funded by UKRI Sciencewise programme, engaged a diverse group of the public to consider how early human embryo research can be used to its fullest, the 14-day rule and the fast-paced field of stem cell-based embryo models.

Headline findings include:

  • Appetite for review of the 14-day rule: Participants recognised that extending the 14-day rule could open up ways to achieve benefits in fertility and health, with participant support for reviewing this, including national discussion.
  • Confidence in regulation: There was a high level of confidence in how human embryo research is regulated, despite a low level of awareness of the regulators and statutes themselves. This included strong desire to see robust regulation governing any changes to the 14-day rule and further regulation for the use of stem cell-based embryo models.
  • Support for improved fertility and health outcomes: The strongest hopes for future human embryo research were where new knowledge would deliver improvements in understanding miscarriage, preventing health conditions such as spina bifida and raising the success rates of IVF procedures.
  • Concerns about genetically engineering humans: The public expressed concerns on the application of developments in this field to genetically alter or engineer humans.

The dialogue engaged a group of 70 people broadly reflective of the UK population in over 15 hours of activities including a series of online and face-to-face workshops with scientists, ethicists, philosophers, policy makers and people with relevant lived experience (such as embryo donors from IVF procedures).

Dr Peter Rugg-Gunn, scientific lead for the HDBI and senior group leader at the Babraham Institute, said: “Recent scientific advances bring incredible new opportunities to study and understand the earliest stages of human development. To ensure this research remains aligned with society’s values and expectations, we must listen and respond to public desires and concerns. This public dialogue is an important first step and as a scientist I am reassured by the findings but there is still a long way to go to fully understand this complex issue.” 

The report is exceedingly timely, following notable scientific advances in human developmental biology presented at conferences and in leading scientific journals in recent months. As well as generating excitement in scientific fields and with the public, announcement of these breakthroughs also prompted some concerns and criticisms, with the view that these findings raised significant ethical issues. The dialogue provides insight into public considerations following deliberation on early human embryo research. The hope is that it will act as a foundational reference point that others in the sectors can build upon, such as in any future review of the law on embryo research.

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, co-chair of the HDBI Oversight group, senior group leader and head of the Laboratory of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at the Francis Crick Institute, said: “We have learnt a lot about human development before 14 days, but there are areas of investigation that could change how we understand development, and associated diseases, that lie beyond our current window of knowledge. Despite low awareness of current laws, members of the public quickly recognised many of the critical issues researchers are keenly aware of when it comes to growing embryos beyond the current limit. This dialogue also reinforced the fact that the public are in support of research that will yield better health outcomes, and in this case, increase the success of IVF procedures.

Other countries will be looking to the UK to see how we deal with the 14-day rule; we are not there yet with any mandate to make a change, but this does give a strong pointer. The next step will be to delve deeper into some of the topics raised through this dialogue as they apply to specific areas of research, as well as feeding into policy changes.”

The 14-day rule and the regulation of stem cell-based models

When considering the regulation of research involving human embryos, the dialogue explored participant’s views on the 14-day rule. Introduced in 1990, the 14-day rule is a limit enforced by statute in the UK. It applies to early human embryos that are donated by consent to research and embryos that are created for research from donated sperm and eggs. It limits the amount of time early human embryos can be developed in a laboratory for scientific study to 14 days after fertilisation. Due to technical advances, it is now possible to grow embryos in the lab past 14 days, but researchers are not allowed to by the law. If the law changed, it would open up this ‘black box’ of development with researchers able to investigate this crucial time in development from 14-28 days after fertilisation.

Professor Bobbie Farsides, co-chair of the HDBI Oversight group and Professor of Clinical and Biomedical Ethics at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, said: “It has been a fascinating experience to support HDBI in the undertaking of this exercise.  I commend the participants for the care and mutual respect they have shown throughout. Their engagement and commitment to a subject few of them had previously considered allowed for a wide range of views to be expressed and considered. I hope the scientists involved will be encouraged by the high level of interest in their work, and will want to keep the public conversation going around these important subjects.”

The dialogue included participant discussion on what a change to the 14-day rule might look like, and identified points that should be considered, such as defining what the benefits of extending the rule would be and potential mis-alignment with human embryo research regulations in other countries.

Participants acknowledged the astonishing possibilities of stem cell-based embryo models. The majority of participants would like to see these models further regulated. Work in establishing potential governance mechanisms is already underway. In recognition of the need for additional guidance and regulation in this area, the Cambridge Reproduction initiative launched a project in March 2023 to develop a governance framework for research using stem cell-based embryo models and to promote responsible, transparent and accountable research.

Future steps

A key outcome from the public dialogue is the identification of areas for further exploration, with participants proposing how future national conversations might be shaped. It is hoped that the project acts as a reference base for both widening engagement with the subject and also prompting deeper exploration of areas of concern.

Dr Michael Norman, HDBI Public Dialogue coordinator and Public Engagement Manager at the Babraham Institute, said: “This dialogue shows that people want the public to work closely with scientists and the government to shape both future embryo research legislation and scientific research direction. It is crucial that others in the sector build on these high quality, two-way engagement methodologies that allow for a genuine exchange of views and information to ensure that the public’s desires and concerns are listened to and respected. Transparency and openness around science is vital for public trust and through this we, as a society, can shape UK research in way that enriches the outcomes for all.”

Public Participant (Broad public group, south) said: “I do think that an extension of this public dialogue, and educating a wider society has a benefit in itself. This is really complex and sensitive and the wider you talk about it before decisions are made, the better.”


Read More

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