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Spain changes embryo laws

27 October 2003
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 231

Following its initial approval in July 2003, the Spanish government has ruled that research will be allowed to take place on frozen-thawed human embryos, as long as they are donated for research purposes after being left over from fertility treatments. The Spanish parliament made a ruling on 16 October that will amend a law governing assisted reproduction passed in 1988. It is estimated that there are tens of thousands of embryos in frozen storage in Spain, because the law there has required clinics to keep supernumary embryos for five years, but has never specified what can be done with them after that time. Advocates for embryo research pushed for a change in the law so that these embryos could be used by scientists.

The new Spanish provisions will only allow research to take place on embryos stored in clinics before the newly-passed law comes into effect. Any embryos frozen and stored after this time will, according to the new law, remain frozen 'throughout the full fertility period of the woman'. Additionally, it will limit both the number of eggs that can be fertilised per cycle, and the number of resulting embryos that can be transferred, to three. IVF experts have criticised the new law on two grounds: that the number of successful IVF pregnancies is likely to be lower because of the limit on eggs that can be fertilised, and because the reforms will encourage fertility clinics to store as few embryos as possible. But Ana Pastor, the Spanish health minister, believes the new law will reduce the number of multiple pregnancies.The new Spanish law also says that a national bank will be established to 'manage and store' embryonic stem cell (ES cell) lines derived from the left over embryos. But last week, Francesco Vallejo Serrano, head of the health department of the Andalucian government, announced that the autonomous region (one of 17 in Spain) intends to set up its own bank of human ES cell lines using any embryos that have been stored for more than five years. He says this is possible because of a loophole in the 1988 law, which only bans research on 'viable embryos'. Serrano argues that embryos stored for more than five years are not viable and should therefore be accessible to researchers. Regional legislation was passed on 9 October to this effect. The Spanish national health ministry is challenging the regional legislation on the grounds that it is anticonstitutional.

Spanish government approves frozen embryo research
The Lancet |  25 October 2003
Spanish stem cell battle
The Scientist |  27 October 2003
13 March 2006 - by Dr Anna Veiga 
When the first law on assisted reproduction was approved in Spain in 1988 (Law 35/88), very few countries had legislation concerning the use of assisted reproductive technologies (ART). That law allowed controlled activity in the field, and most of the professionals involved found it appropriate at that time. However...
28 February 2005 - by BioNews 
The Spanish government has approved four research projects using human embryonic stem (ES) cells. Last November, the Spanish government formally approved a decree clarifying the country's laws on ES cell research. It had passed legislation on assisted reproduction and embryo research in October 2003, but did not at the time...
8 November 2004 - by BioNews 
The Spanish government has now formally approved a decree clarifying the country's laws on human embryonic stem (ES) cell research. The Spanish government passed legislation on assisted reproduction and embryo research in October 2003, but did not specify the mechanisms that would allow Spanish scientists to undertake research projects. Speaking...
28 September 2004 - by BioNews 
Elena Salgado, the Spanish health minister, has said that Spain will allow human embryonic stem (ES) cell research from the end of next month. The Spanish government passed new legislation on assisted reproduction and embryo research in October 2003. Speaking at a medical conference in Granada, she said that the...
10 May 2004 - by BioNews 
A decision about who should be in control of the Spain's first public stem cell bank is closer to being made, now that the two sides to the argument have called a truce. Members of the new Socialist government have agreed to drop legal challenges against the state of Andalusia...
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