HEAL UoS

Posts Tagged ‘assisted conception’

DH Consultation on the futures of the HFEA and HTA

In 2012, Reproduction on July 2, 2012 at 9:00 am

The Department of Health launched today a consultation on the future of two key regulators, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Human Tissue Authority as part of the Coalition Government’s plan to cut the number of arm’s-length bodies and reduce bureaucracy announced in Liberating the NHS: Report of the arm’s-length bodies review (2010). The Public Bodies Act 2011 provided powers to transfer the functions of the HFEA and HTAto other bodies, but not to abolish them. Substantive change to the terms of the regulatory framework would require further legislation. The consultation runs until 28 September.

The logic of streamlining is that providers of health care are subjected to overlapping licensing/registration and inspectorate regimes that might be better co-ordinated, or possibly integrated into a single scheme of regulation under the umbrella of the Care Quality Commission (as in the preferred option). One test of this will be public confidence in the CQC, which has been criticised by the Public Accounts Committee and  seems likely to receive further adverse scrutiny in the report of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry in the Autumn.

The research approval functions in relation to embryo research may no longer need to be separated out from the wider system of research ethics committees, supported by the Health Research Authority, as under the Human Tissue Act 2004 where the HTA licenses tissue storage but specific projects are approved by RECs. The preferred option in the consultation adopts this approach.

The consultation does not address the policy making functions of the two authorities. One important historical role of the HFEA has been to develop principled approaches to difficult ethical issues raised by assisted reproductive technologies. Work under way includes a national donation strategy, chaired by Professor Sheila Maclean, and work on public consultation on the use of techniques to prevent mitochondrial disease. It is not clear where such deliberative engagement and policy work will fit into the new regulatory landscape. Parliamentarians have expressed concern over the ‘democratic deficit’ in leaving such considerations to non-elected groups but this consultation document does not set out the thinking on the best way to resolve them in the future.

Jonathan Montgomery is Chair of the Health Research Authority but the views expressed here are personal only.

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Sociological take on donor conception

In 2012, Reproduction on May 7, 2012 at 6:58 am

Just a quick Bank Holiday message: here’s an interesting video by Prof. Carol Smart of the Morgan Centre, Manchester Uni, on ‘Legal cases involving donor conception’ as part of the ESRC Relative Strangers project that Carol and Dr Petra Nordqvist are currently undertaking. Please note their amendment – under the media link – re the terminology of ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ parent in light of a recent Court of Appeal case, A v B and anor [2012] EWCA Civ 285, which you can read here.

Donor conception: interesting times

In 2012, Genetics, News, Reproduction on April 10, 2012 at 10:26 am

In the late 1990s the wisdom of choosing sperm donation/donor conception as the focus of my research was something that I was questioned about more than once. It was seen as a ‘dated’ subject; after all it wasn’t about the latest technological developments or indicative of where science or policy might go next. But, those concerns fell by the wayside in the early 2000s when this field hit centre stage once again, and it shows no signs of letting up a decade or so later. A cursory glance at the news in the last week or so gives rise to a range of stories:

  • From the ‘world first’ recommendation, in Australia, from the Victorian Parliament’s Law Reform Committee that all donor conceived people should have access to donor information, and where needed anonymity should be revoked retrospectively; further commentary and links are available on Bionews.

 

  • ‘Children of sperm donors should be told’ read one headline in The Independent (02 April, 2012; ie they should be informed about the mode of their conception – it does not seem that those interviewed were asked questions about the donor’s identity per se). 

 

  • The Nuffield Council on Bioethics is seeking written submissions of evidence by 15 May 2012 on ‘information disclosure’.

 

 

  • And last, but not least, ‘British sperm donor “fathered 600 children” was the lead headline for the Sunday Times (08 April, 2012); on 10 April 2012 this was ranked the ‘most read’ article in The Sunday Times on-line. This story later appeared in The Telegraph: ‘British man “fathered 600 children” at own fertility clinic’.  

Sometimes the ‘old’ questions or supposedly ‘settled’ issues give rise to the most interesting conundrums, in health care policy and law and beyond.

This Time Last Year: internet sperm traders

In News 2010 on October 10, 2011 at 8:32 am

In October 2010, two men who reportedly made £250,000 from the provision of fresh sperm via the internet were given suspended prison sentences. The pair – Ricky Gage and Nigel Woodforth – were convicted for the illegal provision of sperm without a licence, contrary to the provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. Nine month suspended sentences were handed down, and the pair were fined £15,000 each and ordered to undertake 200 hours community service and contribute towards the prosecution’s costs.

This was the first case to test and clarify these provisions, despite the fact the first internet sperm trader in Britain started up in 2002 (Man Not Included: it has since closed and the director was jailed for fraud – but no prosecution was sought at the time in relation to the provision of sperm without a licence).

Links:

BBC News: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-11521464;

HFEA: http://www.hfea.gov.uk/6086.html

Bionews: http://www.bionews.org.uk/page_73005.asp

http://www.bionews.org.uk/page_71341.asp

On Man Not Included: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7337576.stm