HEAL UoS

Final Report from Human Genetics Commission

In 2012, Genetics on June 1, 2012 at 8:00 am

The Human Genetics Commission has published its final report, report summarising its work and achievements since its creation in 1999.

In his introduction to the report, HEAL member Jonathan  Montgomery, who chaired the Commission from 2009-2012, notes that the Commission’s work has led to policy and legislative changes, and the principles that have underpinned its reports have established a framework for responding to the possibilities that our enhanced scientific knowledge is creating.

‘Just as significant has been the approach the HGC has pioneered of open and transparent deliberation. It has combined rigorous thinking with listening carefully to people’s views, facilitating public debate, and using different media for the exploration of matters within its remit. Its success has been built on the high quality of its Members, the advice of its Consultative Panel, and the many contributions received from those who have engaged with its consultations and other work. It has also been blessed with an excellent Secretariat, without which it would have floundered.’

The report summarises the work and achievements of the HGC over the twelve years of its existence. The first chair Baroness Helena Kennedy writes ‘The creation of the HGC in 1999 was a courageous move, and a concrete indication by the Government that it hoped to encourage a debate about how we as a society should deal with important aspects of human genetics. Many of these aspects were of a profound philosophical nature, taking us to the heart of our idea of ourselves as humans, while other aspects were more practical.’

Professor Sir John Sulston, Acting Chair of the Commission 2008-9, drew attention to the conclusion of  the independent review of the HGC undertaken in 2008 that the HGC consistently ‘punched above its weight in terms of influencing public policy’, and commented that ‘there is no doubt that the HGC represented exceptional value for money. It demonstrated that it could respond quickly to changing agendas and specific requests for advice from Ministers, providing careful evaluation of emerging technology.

This latter role will now be taken up by the new Emerging Science and Bioethics Advisory Committee (ESBAC) under the chairmanship of Sir Alisdair Breckenridge.

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