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HFEA creates international panel to help with policy

20 December 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 289

The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has created an international panel of experts in the field of assisted reproduction and human embryo research. The new HFEA Horizon Scanning Expert Panel (HHSEP) is charged with keeping the HFEA 'ahead of the fast pace of scientific change'. According to an HFEA press release, the HHSEP will primarily be used to inform the policy development and decision making of the HFEA by 'providing an expert assessment of upcoming scientific and technical developments' and 'identifying priority areas for further scrutiny'.

The members of the HHSEP include reproductive medicine specialists from the US and Belgium, stem cell experts from the UK, Australia and Japan and other leading figures from the worlds of developmental genetics, cryopreservation and cloning. The full list of members can be viewed in the press release (see link below). The panel will be supported by the HFEA's own policy team, which will monitor scientific developments and identify upcoming issues. The panel's work will also feed into the HFEA's broader policy development and consultation work for the new year. This includes a public consultation on the 'welfare of the child' provision in the 1990 HFE Act, following up the sperm, egg and embryo donation consultation, which ends in February, and developing a seventh edition of the Code of Practice.

Suzi Leather, chair of the HFEA, said that the HFEA has 'a number of initiatives to track and predict the scientific environment from current developments to trying to build a picture of what will be happening in five to ten years time'. She added that the 'horizon scanning' work will enable the HFEA to 'strengthen the decisions we make by providing a broader scientific picture on which we can explore the ethical and regulatory implications'. She continued: 'The panel's deliberations will also help inform parliament in its work to revise the HFE Act'.

Following the HFEA's announcement, criticisms of the authority have come from religious leaders, adding to comments made last week by Professor Lord Robert Winston. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, has called for a separate body to debate the ethical issues raised in the area of assisted reproduction and embryo research. He proposes a statutory bioethics committee, similar to ones found in the US and some European countries, to scrutinise developments in the science, saying that the HFEA should be limited to its administrative role. The HFEA is 'not an adequate body' for dealing with the ethical implications of many of the new technologies, he said, adding 'many of the HFEA's rulings are causing deep public disquiet'.

Cardinal demands tougher scrutiny over fertility research
The Daily Telegraph |  20 December 2004
HFEA brings together an international panel of experts
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority |  15 December 2004
13 December 2004 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
Robert Winston, Britain's best known fertility doctor, stirred up a hornet's nest last week when he called for the abolition of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). His tirade against the UK's regulatory body, launched in an interview for the 'Today' programme on BBC Radio Four, included the accusations...
10 December 2004 - by BioNews 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is incompetent, poorly organised, and should be scrapped or replaced with a more flexible body, according to Robert Winston. The fertility doctor and broadcaster made his comments on BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme, aired on 10 December. In response, HFEA chair...
6 December 2004 - by Professor Donna Dickenson 
While some UK commentators debate setting up a national bioethics committee to supplement or rival the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), France is doing the reverse: creating a new statutory national biomedicine regulatory authority, in addition to its 20-year old national ethics committee. After January 2005, the CCNE...
29 November 2004 - by Professor Richard Ashcroft 
In a recent guest commentary for BioNews, Josephine Quintavalle of Comment on Reproductive Ethics (Core) presented the case for establishing a national bioethics committee for the UK. She rightly noted that many countries have established such a committee, and that many of these committees have a distinguished record in producing...
4 October 2004 - by Josephine Quintavalle 
Since it was set up in 1994, Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE) has always argued that the dual role of the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority as a regulatory and advisory body does little service to democracy in the serious arena of ethical decision-making. We have concluded over the years, from...
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