Fertility professionals’ response to Science and Technology Committee’s report on Human Reproductive Technologies and the Law

24 March 2005

The British Fertility Society (BFS)1, on behalf of its members – health professionals in the field of fertility services and reproductive medicine – welcomes the report from the science and technology committee.

The general themes of the report summary are consistent with the BFS’s ideals of evidence-based decision-making in reproductive medicine and the need to review the regulatory processes to normalise the field of fertility within UK medical services.

The BFS will consider a detailed response to the Committee’s report in due course.

Specifically now, in response to the issues raised:

The selection and screening of embryos – The opinions of the membership of the BFS reflect the views of society as a whole with individual members holding mixed personal views on the acceptability of embryo screening (including sex selection).

Gamete donor anonymity – The BFS welcome steps towards openness in fertility treatment but have concerns about the effects of the removal of anonymity on donor fertility services in the UK. The BFS remains committed to working with the Department of Health and the National Gamete Donation Trust to raise public awareness of the need for egg and sperm donors. However, the BFS is monitoring the effect of the changes in legislation on treatment services.

Regulation – The BFS welcomes the Select Committee’s decision to endorse the general view of the professional bodies that the regulatory and policy making functions of the HFEA should be separated.

Use of clinical data – The removal of the current restrictions on data related to infertility treatments will enable more detailed evaluations on the outcome of treatment to be undertaken. We welcome the call for more public funds to carry out this kind of research.

Human reproductive cloning – the BFS feel that a total prohibition should be maintained. In addition, the weight of public opinion should contribute to ‘coherent argument’ in this case.

Welfare of the child – The society agrees with the Select Committee Report that the current Welfare of the Child assessments potentially discriminates against the infertile couple.

Alison Murdoch, Chair of the British Fertility Society, said: “Fifteen years ago IVF was a novel treatment and not generally accepted. In 2005, nearly 2% of all babies born in the UK are conceived with the help of assisted reproductive technologies. NICE recommendations, supported by the government, place the responsibility for the provision of IVF treatment alongside other medical treatments receiving NHS funding. It is appropriate, therefore, that regulation is more consistent with that applied to other clinical treatments. The Select Committee takes us a step further in this direction.