The UK government has paved the way ahead for the Human Tissue and Embryos (HTE) Bill in its response to the Bill Scrutiny Committee, which was released today. The Government has taken on many of the Committee's recommendations, including the rejection of plans to merge the current regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), with the Human Tissue Authority, to form a new Regulatory Authority for Tissue and Embryos (RATE). Previous government plans to merge the two authorities met with wide opposition amongst stakeholders - amongst other objections, it was argued that retaining the separate authorities would provide better regulatory oversight for these two diverse areas of practice.
The Government has also agreed that all forms of human-animal hybrid embryos should be permitted to be created for research, subject to license from the HFEA; this recommendation has also been hailed as a success among key stakeholders. Liberal Democrat MP, Evan Harris, commented: 'This is just reward for the campaigning of scientists to prevent a perceived 'yuk' factor from closing down potential research avenues and a triumph for rational policy-making'.
One of the proposals of the Scrutiny Committee rejected by the Government was the suggestion of putting 'by donor' on the birth certificates of donor-conceived children, which has been described as a 'rather bizarre recommendation' by Evan Harris, MP. Further key measures of the revised Bill include:
- Ensuring that all human embryos outside the body - whatever the process used in their creation - are subject to regulation
- A ban on sex-selection for non-medical reasons
- Recognition of same-sex parents as legal parents
- Retaining the duty to take account of the 'welfare of the child' in providing fertility treatment, but removing the reference to 'the need for a father'.
Public Health Minister, Dawn Primarolo, who has responsibility for the draft Bill, said: 'We have been deliberately open-minded on these complex issues as we wanted to get the legislation right. Having now discussed these issues with parliament and interested parties I believe we are creating legislation that will provide clarity and assurance to patients, researchers, the medical profession, and the public for years to come'.