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Government Regulations of ART in the U.K.

Posted 03-11-2008 at 09:18 AM by IVF Doctor
Assisted reproductive technologies in the U.K. are heavily regulated. Now an update on the legislative framework has been proposed in Parliament under the heading Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill and, promptly, has run into stiff resistance.
Not surprisingly, the Roman Catholic Church has been at the forefront of opposition to many of the activities the new bill would allow. As The New York Sun reported on March 10, 2008, quoting a dispatch of The Daily Telegraph, the new bill would, indeed, change current ART practices in the U.K. quite fundamentally:
Maybe the most controversial new practice the bill would allow is the creation of so-called chimera embryos. Such embryos are formed by inserting human genetic material into animal cells and/or eggs. The resultant embryos then would be exclusively used for research, of course, though opponents of the bill float the rumor that scientists could use the bill to circumvent other existing laws and create chimeric human embryos and babies.
Other new provisions of the bill may seem less controversial, but have also run into considerable opposition. For example, under current law, IVF clinics have to consider the need of a father to be involved in the upbringing of a child before establishing an IVF pregnancy. This provision would now fall by the wayside, opening IVF opportunities for single women and lesbian couples. Not surprisingly, this change was declared "profoundly wrong" by the leader of the Roman catholic Church in England and Wales.
The new bill will also allow for the screening of embryos for serious genetic diseases and in order to determine whether they could serve as tissue-matched donors for siblings in need of tissue donations, but prohibits the screening of embryos with the purpose of having a child with specific abnormalities, such as inherited forms of deafness (often desired by deaf parents), and for gender selection purposes.
Finally, the bill further would impair anonymity of gamete donations, as children conceived via egg or sperm donation now will be given the right at age 16 to inquire about half-siblings from the same donor, will be able to verify lack of any relationship before marriage and be entitled to information on their donor "parents".
From the U.S. point of view the provisions of this new law look like a mixed bag: More freedom in pursuing early embryo research would seem like a positive development. Restrictions of IVF utilization to couples was in the U.S. by most IVF centers abandoned decades ago and preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) for genetic diseases has become routine.
The U.K's restriction against gender selection seems silly since the literature now quite well refutes the usually heard arguments against this utilization of IVF and PGD that (1) the procedure is sexist; and (2) that allowing gender selection will lead to an imbalance of the sexes in the population (Gleicher and Barad, Hum Reprod 2007;22:3038-41).
We also don't like the piercing of confidentiality when it comes to gamete donation. This will only further limit the availability of donors and, therefore, in our opinion, overall does not serve the public well.
Let's hope that the U.S. in this case does NOT learn from the U.K., but knowing some of the so-called (professional) ethicists in this country, we better get ready for the discussion.
Total Comments 1



What can we do?

guess I'm not surprised. someone is always trying to regulate something...
Seems to me the people who are least likely to notice this are young people, and they are the same group who someday may want the option to use some of these services.
What can we do to make sure we are represented?
Posted 03-19-2008 at 08:33 AM by andria andria is offline

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