Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority

:"HFEA redirects here. For the 1990 Act of Parliament, see Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990"The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is a statutory body in the United Kingdom that regulates and inspects all UK clinics providing "in vitro" fertilisation, artificial insemination or the storage of human ova, sperm or embryos. In public administration terms it is a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) accountable to the Department of Health.

The HFEA also licenses and monitors all human embryo research conducted in the UK. In addition, it carries out a policy role, advising the UK legislators of changes that it believes should be made to fertility legislation.

Background to the establishment of the HFEA

After the birth of Louise Brown, the world's first IVF baby, there was inevitably some concern about the implications of this new technology. In 1982 the government brought together a committee chaired by philosopher Mary Warnock to look into the issues and see what action needed to be taken.

Hundreds of interested individuals and organisations gave evidence to the committee from doctors, scientists and health organisations to patient and parent organisations and religious groups.

The final report has been much admired around the world for the depth and delicacy of its consideration of these very controversial and emotive issues.Fact|date=April 2007

In the years following the Warnock report [http://www.bopcris.ac.uk/bopall/ref21165.html] , proposals were brought forward by the government which eventually became the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 [ [http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1990/Ukpga_19900037_en_1.htm Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (c. 37) ] ] .

Amongst other things the HFE Act set up the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to be the independent statutory regulator for IVF treatment and human embryo research. The HFEA came into effect on 1 August, 1991. Amongst its functions it is required to keep a database of every IVF treatment carried out since that date and a database of every gamete (egg and sperm) donor.

After years of operation - and controversy - in this fast moving area of science and ethics, the UK government instigated a consultation and review process of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act in 2004 [ [http://www.dh.gov.uk/PolicyAndGuidance/HealthAndSocialCareTopics/AssistedConception/AssistedConceptionGeneralInformation/AssistedConceptionGeneralArticle/fs/en?CONTENT_ID=4069149&chk=MSMizC A to Z site index : Department of Health - Site map ] ] .

Recent decisions of the HFEA

Recent decisions of the HFEA have caused inevitable controversy.

* In 2004, the HFEA granted British scientists a licence to produce cloned human cells, making it only the second country in the world to permit such a procedure [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3554474.stm BBC NEWS | Health | Scientists given cloning go-ahead ] ]

* In 2005, the HFEA granted a licence to treat mitochondrial diseases by allowing researchers to attempt to create an embryo with two genetic mothers [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4225564.stm BBC NEWS | Health | Embryo with two mothers approved ] ]

* In 2006, the HFEA approved in principle the screening of embryos for genes that may lead to certain cancers in middle age [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4750341.stm BBC NEWS | Health | Embryo checks 'should be widened' ] ]

* In 2007 the Authority agreed to allow women to be able to donate their eggs to research projects, provided that there are strong safeguards in place to ensure the women are properly informed of the risks of the procedure and are properly protected from coercion [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6379827.stm BBC NEWS | Health | Altruistic egg donation 'allowed' ] ] . It should be noted here that unless an embryo is actually created the HFEA does not have any jurisdiction in this area.

* In September 2007, after an extensive consultation with the UK public, the Authority decided that there is no fundamental reason to prevent cytoplasmic hybrid research. [ [http://www.hfea.gov.uk/en/1581.html HFEA statement on its decision regarding hybrid embryos ] ] However, public opinion was very finely divided with people generally opposed to this research unless it is tightly regulated and it is likely to lead to scientific or medical advancements.

The Authority did not give a total green light for cytoplasmic hybrid research, but recognition that this area of research can, with caution and careful scrutiny, be permitted. Individual research teams should be able to undertake research projects involving the creation of cytoplasmic hybrid embryos if they can demonstrate, to the satisfaction of an HFEA licence committee, that their planned research project is both necessary and desirable. They must also meet the overall standards required by the HFEA for any embryo research.

* In January 2008, the HFEA granted licenses to Newcastle University and King's College London to carry out cytoplasmic hybrid research projects

Current and Former Members

*Chair - Professor Lisa Jardine
*Deputy Chair - Sharmilla Nebhrajani
*Interim Chief Executive - Alan Doran
*Chief Executive - Angela McNab
*Former Member- Professor Martin Johnson, Professor of Reproductive Sciences at the University of Cambridge

Former Chairs include Walter Merricks, Shirley Harrison, Lord Richard Harries, Dame Suzi Leather, Baroness Ruth Deech and Sir Colin Campbell

References

External links

* [http://www.hfea.gov.uk/ Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) website]
* [http://guide.hfea.gov.uk/ Find an HFEA licensed clinic ]
* [http://www.hfea.gov.uk/codeofpractice HFEA Code of Practice ]
* [http://www.oneatatime.org.uk Multiple pregnancy - Single biggest risk of fertility treatment ]


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