In December 2006, the Government set out in a Command Paper, its proposals for change to the law on assisted reproduction and embryo research, including the proposed Regulatory Authority for Tissue and Embryos (RATE), which will replace existing regulatory bodies (the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority, and the Human Tissue Authority). Whilst the detail of the changes to the legislation has yet to be finalised (a draft bill will have to be debated in Parliament first), it is interesting to note some of the key modifications that may occur in the event that the Government’s position is ultimately adopted.
? Removal of the need for a father in consideration of the welfare of the child.
? Introduction of a “cooling off” period of up to one year, following the withdrawal of consent to embryo storage by one of the persons whose gametes were used in the creation of the embryo.
? Extension of the statutory storage period of embryos from five to ten years.
? Introduction of explicit criteria for the testing of embryos, for example, to screen out genetic or chromosomal abnormalities.
? Prohibition of sex selection for non-medical reasons.
? Introduction of donors’ rights to be able to access limited, nonidentifying information about children conceived as a result of their donation, and to be informed when their identifying details have been requested by those children.
? Introduction of donor-conceived children’s rights to access to information about their donorconceived siblings.
? Revision of the status and legal parenthood provisions to enable a greater range of persons to be recognised as parents following assisted reproduction.
? Explicit prohibition of the creation of hybrid and chimera embryos in vitro, subject to future regulations regarding research.
Parliament’s Select Committee on Science and Technology has decided to hold an inquiry into the Government’s proposals. The inquiry will focus upon the appropriateness of the proposals for legislation and on the impact of those upon stem cell research in the UK.