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New Assisted Reproduction Bill in Ireland gathers pace

22 January 2018

By Ruth Retassie

Appeared in BioNews 934

Details of Ireland's proposed Assisted Human Reproduction Bill were revealed in a meeting of the Oireachtas Health Committee.

Ireland currently has no legislation governing assisted reproduction. The bill aims to provide comprehensive regulation across all aspects of assisted reproduction and establish an Assisted Human Reproduction Regulatory Authority to make ongoing decisions, explained the Department of Health's chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan.

'They will have fairly significant powers of inspection and access to information to ensure that all of the practices conform to the requirements of the legislation,' he said.

Among the topics covered by Dr Holohan were posthumous assisted reproduction, extensions on IVF storage limits for teenagers with cancer, and PGD and sex selection to avoid passing on genetic conditions.

The bill will establish publicly funded access to IVF to include single people and gay couples. However, the committee advised that it will take time to create a publicly funded fertility treatment system that meets the demand. Ireland's rates for assisted human reproduction has gone up from 7589 cycles in 2009, to nearly 9000 cycles in 2016.

Posthumous use of frozen gametes and embryos by a surviving partner will be permitted within specific guidelines. The deceased person would be considered the legal parent of a baby born within 36 months from the time the person passed away.

Dr Holohan, stated: 'These provisions enable a surviving female partner to continue a parental project after the death of her partner, provided specific conditions are fulfilled. For example, the relevant parties have received counselling and given their informed consent and provided a one-year grieving period has elapsed since the partner's death.'

Commercial surrogacy will be banned, but altruistic surrogacy arrangements will be permitted and will need to be approved by the regulator. There will be a pathway to transfer legal parenthood from the surrogate to the intended parents.

The bill proposes that both PGD and sex selection be permitted to choose embryos who will be not be affected by serious genetic disorders. The regulator will develop a full list of genetic diseases that qualify, and sex selection will only be allowed for diseases that disproportionately affect one gender.

Gamete storage was also discussed, with ten years being proposed as the standard time limit. However, patients may seek extensions from the regulator, such as teenage cancer patients. The Irish Cancer Society had expressed concern that survivors of childhood cancer needed longer storage times in order for them to have enough time to access fertility treatment as an adult.

The bill will also regulate embryo and stem cell research.

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

29 January 2018 - by Fiona Duffy 
The Minister for Health in Ireland on the 3 October 2017 disclosed a decision by Government to approve the drafting of a bill on assisted human reproduction (AHR) and associated research...

23 October 2017 - by Dr Michelle Rodgers 
Equity and access are among the most urgent issues for medically assisted reproduction. According to Ireland's Health Research Board, across Europe six countries offer full public funding, and 19 countries offer partial public funding...
09 October 2017 - by Georgia Everett 
For the first time couples in Ireland will be eligible for financial aid for fertility treatments, after the Government signed off new proposals last week...
09 March 2015 - by Fiona Duffy 
According to a recent press release from the Department of Health, the Irish Government is finally going to legislate for 'Assisted Human Reproduction and associated research'...
02 March 2015 - by Sean Byrne 
The Irish Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, has announced there will be new draft legislation to regulate surrogacy in Ireland – five months after surrogacy provisions proposed in January last year were dropped from a Bill currently before the Oireachtas...
10 November 2014 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
The Supreme Court of Ireland has ruled that the genetic mother of twins born to a surrogate cannot be included as the children's mother on their birth certificates, saying that it is for the Irish Parliament to legislate in this area.....

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