Reproduction and Fertility is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal
Page URL:

Another member leaves Canada's AHRC

7 June 2010
Appeared in BioNews 561

A third board member of Canada's fertility industry regulator, the Assisted Human Reproduction Canada (AHRC), has resigned.

Irene Ryll, the agency's consumer representative, resigned from her duties leaving critics to call for a public investigation into its operations, or lack of as perceived by many. In April, two other respected board members, Barbara Slater and Francoise Baylis, also resigned - but would not comment on their reasons for doing so at the time, citing confidentiality agreements signed with the agency upon their appointment. Since then the National Post newspaper has seen Slater's letter of resignation which outlines her concern over the agency's 'prudence and diligence in managing public funds'.

Criticism of the AHRC has been mounting as the resignations have been seen as indicative of disagreements within the agency, further adding to speculation over its perceived inactivity. 'It's obviously a mess,' said Diane Allen, head of the Infertility Network in Canada. 'This is about the creation of human life, and the purpose of the [law] is to safeguard the health and safety of fertility patients and the children born to them, and the agency is charged with overseeing that,' she said. The lost of esteemed members of the board is seen by many as a blow to the proper functioning of the agency.

The agency plays both a licensing and enforcement role, yet despite being formed over three years ago and wielding a budget of over $12 million it has done very little of either, says the National Post. 'This is a critically important agency,' explains Jocelyn Downie, an ethicist at Dalhousie University. 'Are we losing the independent, non-ideological voices? I don't know. But when you look at the profiles, [it] is a legitimate question to ask... Why have these people left, and what does it leave us with as a board?'

The sale of gametes is prohibited under Canada's Assisted Human Reproduction Act 2004, but reimbursement for expenses incurred during donation is permitted. Many believe the lack of AHRC guidance on 'legitimate expenses' and its failure to ensure adequate and consistent compliance with the law has resulted in clinics adopting different practices resulting in a lack of uniformity. The AHRC says that specific guidance must first come from Health Canada, the federal body responsible for overseeing the provision of healthcare. Health Canada has responded that it must await the decision of Canada's Supreme Court on a challenge of the country's laws governing reproductive technologies brought by the state of Quebec. The AHRC says that it must too await this decision before acting.

Others suspect that the resignations indicate an ideological divergence of views within the agency with those board members remaining holding more conservative views. John Hamm, a former Conservative, heads the AHRC and other board members include those with strong views against abortion and embryonic stem cell research. In her letter of resignation, Slater suggested that dynamic functioning between board members may have broken down. 'It appears that board members who are trying to fulfil their responsibilities are seen as obstructionist - I am unable to fulfil the duties entrusted to me in a manner that satisfies my conscience and my integrity,' she wrote. New Democrat MP Megal Leslie said the news was 'alarming' and asked, 'Why are these people leaving, and leaving behind folks I perceive as more in line with Conservative ideology?' Leslie is due to ask Canada's parliament to launch an investigation into the recent resignations at AHRC and its operations.

Board members flee federal agency
Canoe |  2 June 2010
Fertility spending at issue: letter
National Post |  1 June 2010
Third board member quits fertility industry watchdog
National Post |  31 May 2010
28 May 2013 - by Dr Pamela White 
The Quebec Health Minister Réjean Hébert has announced a review of the province's publicly funded IVF program in light of rising costs, but has made assurances that provincial funding will not be cut....
21 June 2010 - by Dr Gabrielle Samuel 
A Canadian MP has suggested that Canada's fertility-industry watchdog, Assisted Human Reproduction Canada (AHRC) should be shut down because it is doing so little with its annual $10 million budget....
7 June 2010 - by Professor Jocelyn Downie 
In the past three months, three members of the Board of Directors of Assisted Human Reproduction Canada (AHRC) have resigned. This set of resignations is cause for serious concern and requires urgent attention from the federal Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Parliament itself....
17 May 2010 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
Canada's fertility licensing and regulatory body, Assisted Human Reproduction Canada (AHRC), has come under fire from lawyers and doctors who are finding the country's fertility laws vague and uncertain, the National Post newspaper reports...
26 April 2010 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy 
Two board members of the Canadian federal agency 'Assisted Human Reproduction Canada' have unexpectedly quit. This follows the resignations of four senior staff members last year...
3 October 2005 - by Dr Mavis Jones 
The current public consultation on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act, according to the government's official statement, is intended 'to ensure that the law remains effective and fit for purpose in the early 21st century'. The HFE Act has managed to maintain political authority over its 15 year tenure...
8 March 2004 - by BioNews 
A Canadian Senate committee has unanimously passed legislation on assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) and related matters. Approval by the Senate virtually guarantees that the Assisted Human Reproduction Act - which has been years in the making - will receive Royal Assent and become law. Last October, bill C-13, entitled 'an Act...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.