According to Health Minister, Tony Abbott, lifting the ban on human stem cell cloning could lead to “human-animal hybrids” - a claim dismissed as rubbish by a fellow Liberal MP.

Mr Abbott’s claim that the recommendations of the Lockhart report on human cloning and embryo research opened the way to hybrid humans was dismissed as “a pretty childish ploy” by a Government backbencher and general practitioner, Dr Mal Washer.

Dr Washer, who led the campaign to challenge the cabinet’s preliminary decision not to act on the Lockhart call to relax the ban on human stem cell cloning, said the expert committee’s recommendations were not proposing the development of a hybrid.

The recommendation to use animal oocytes (or eggs) to incubate human cell tissue was not to develop an embryo but to enable biochemical testing of human cell lines to identify the best pathways for new treatments.

This was a reasonable approach, and would reduce the need to harvest eggs from women, a procedure the Lockhart report said carried significant risks, including in very rare cases, infertility or death.

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