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  1. Danielle Hamm1,
  2. Veronica English1,
  3. Caroline Harrison1,
  4. Rebecca Mussell1,
  5. Julian Sheather1,
  6. Ann Sommerville1
  1. 1
    BMA House
  1. Danielle Hamm, BMA House; dhamm{at}bma.org.uk

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Review of the human fertilisation and embryology act

In October 2007 the Government published its response1 to the report of the Joint House of Lords, House of Commons Scrutiny Committee on the Human Tissue and Embryos (Draft) Bill. The response set out the Government’s proposals for legislation that, at the time of writing, were expected to be introduced to Parliament in November or December 2007. Following a concerted campaign by medical and scientific groups, the Government dropped its controversial proposal to merge the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and the Human Tissue Authority to form a Regulatory Authority for Tissue and Embryos. It also conceded that the HFEA should have the authority to license research projects using all types of inter-species embryos (see below) including “true hybrids” (produced by combining human and animal gametes). This proposal will therefore be in the Bill for debate in Parliament.

UK approves the use of inter-species embryos for research

Following many months of discussion and consultation, the UK fertility regulator, the HFEA, decided in September 2007 that it would consider applications from UK researchers for the creation and use of cystoplasmic hybrid embryos. The research involves the use of enucleated cow or rabbit eggs in which to develop human embryonic stem cells for research. Although the HFEA also consulted on the creation and use of chimeras, and of “true hybrids” it decided not to make a decision on the acceptability of this research. Given that no research projects involving these techniques were expected to be submitted in the near future, and the anticipated parliamentary debate on the issue later in the year (see above), it was decided to await the outcome of parliamentary consideration of this issue.

Cognitive enhancements

Over the last few years, the number of books, articles and research projects on the ethical aspects of cognitive enhancements has increased dramatically. Some focus on the future possibility of creating individuals …

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