28 October 2013
ByAppeared in BioNews 728
Professor Lisa Jardine has announced that she is due to step down as chair of the UK's fertility and embryo research regulator, the HFEA, in January 2014.
Jardine, who is Professor of Renaissance Studies at University College London as well as a wide-ranging writer and broadcaster, was appointed as chair of the regulator in 2008. She confirmed her imminent departure from the post in her latest contribution to the BBC Radio 4 programme A Point of View, and in an accompanying article on the BBC News website. 'My personal mission when I took up the post was...public engagement - disseminating as widely as possible both the benefits and disadvantages of all aspects of assisted reproduction', she said. 'This proved to be unexpectedly difficult to do'.
After paying tribute to the 'clear-headedness and keen intellect' of Baroness Mary Warnock, chair of the committee whose 1984 report led to the creation of the HFEA, Professor Jardine spoke of the high cost and 'discouragingly low' success rate of IVF. She said: 'I would have loved to have been able to have spoken more often and more publicly, with more words of caution for those proposing to undertake IVF, or postponing their family because IVF seems a reliable option should natural conception fail'. These remarks were welcomed by the charity Infertility Network UK, which said: 'No one starts out having treatment thinking that it won't work, but sometimes a lack of understanding of the "real" success rates can lead to crushing disappointment'.
On a more positive note, Professor Jardine drew attention to the HFEA's recent public consultation on techniques to avoid the transmission of mitochondrial disease as a high point of her tenure. In the HFEA's own statement confirming her departure, Professor Jardine said: 'I am particularly honoured to have overseen the Medical Frontiers: Debating Mitochondria Replacement public consultation. It clearly demonstrated the specialised ability the HFEA has to engage, educate and communicate complex science and public opinion'.