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Parliamentary committee recommends sweeping changes to the Human Tissue and Embryos (Draft) Bill

06 August 2007

By Danielle Hamm

Appeared in BioNews 419

A joint UK parliamentary committee, established to scrutinise the Human Tissue and Embryos (Draft) Bill, has recommended that fundamental changes be made to the Bill before it commences its passage through parliament. The draft Bill will replace the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, which frames the law and regulation around assisted reproduction and embryo research. The new Bill aims to update the law to take account of fast moving technological advances in this area, and to reflect current attitudes to the ethical and social issues surrounding this complex field.

One of the most fundamental proposals is the rejection of the merger of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which currently regulates assisted reproduction and embryo research, with the Human Tissue Authority (HTA), which regulates the use, storage and disposal of human tissue. As it stands, the draft Bill would establish one authority - the Regulatory Authority for Tissues and Embryos (RATE) - to regulate both areas. The Joint Committee, however, has recommended that better oversight of these two distinct areas would be provided if their regulation remains separate. Phil Willis MP, chair of the committee, told the BBC that there was 'very little evidence' of any support for the proposal and only 'lukewarm' justification for it.

The committee was also critical of government recommendations which prevent the creation of certain types of animal-human hybrid embryos for research. The committee recommended that creation and use of hybrids for research should be put to a free vote in parliament, and that it was for the regulatory body to decide which type of research should be permitted, under license.

Other major proposals include:

  • Recording the fact a child was born as a result of donor insemination on their birth certificate;
  • Extending the use of PGD to help create 'saviour siblings' for children who are suffering from non life-threatening conditions;
  • Under 'welfare of the child' provision, the 'need for a father' clause should be put to a free vote, but the committee recommended the clause should be replaced with 'the need for a parent' to include same-sex couples.
The cross-party committee consisted of 18 MPs and Peers, who received evidence from 46 expert witnesses and 100 written submissions during its inquiry. The report has now been submitted to the Department of Health for consideration.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Changes to embryos bill urged
The Guardian | 
 
No need for new regulator
The Times | 
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

12 November 2007 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
A new Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill was published last week by the UK's Department of Health. The Bill is designed to update and reform the existing laws on assisted conception and human embryo research in the UK, established by the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology...
12 November 2007 - by Professor Marcus Pembrey 
This conference (organised by the Progress Educational Trust (PET), held at the Institute of Child Health, London on 1 November) was extremely timely, given that the new Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill revising regulation of assisted reproduction and embryo research was published last week. This Bill is intended to...
13 August 2007 - by Katy Sinclair 
Lord Alton of Liverpool has attacked the Joint Committee report on the proposed Human Tissue and Embryos Bill, claiming that it 'misses the point'. His remarks are specifically aimed at the Bill's provision for human-animal hybrid embryo research, which the Committee has recommended be put to a...

06 August 2007 - by MacKenna Roberts 
A UK all party parliamentary committee has recommended that children born through fertility treatments involving donated sperm or eggs should have this information recorded on their birth certificates. The MPs and Peers stated that children have a right to know of their donated biological parentage and believe...
06 August 2007 - by Dr Mark Hamilton 
Last week saw the publication of the UK parliamentary report of the Joint Committee on the Human Tissue and Embryos (Draft) Bill. The government is now tasked to respond over the next two months in time for the Bill to be included in the Queen's Speech in November. Certain key...
21 May 2007 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
The UK Government has published a draft version of the Human Tissue and Embryos Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny. The proposals will amend the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. As it stands, the Bill will ban the creation of embryos that contain genetic material from both animals...
17 December 2006 - by Veronica English 
In its White Paper on the review of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, the UK Government has reaffirmed its intention to merge the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) to form a single regulatory body - RATE - the Regulatory Authority for Tissues and Embryos...

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