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The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008: a missed opportunity?
  1. Amel Alghrani
  1. Correspondence to Dr Amel Alghrani, Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation, Centre for Social Ethics and Policy, School of Law, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL; amel.alghrani{at}

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Regulating reproduction is no easy feat. In the past three decades we have witnessed a reproductive revolution and great strides have been made to alleviate the effects of infertility. Reproductive advances such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), sex selection, reproductive cloning and embryo selection for the purpose of creating “saviour siblings” have all emerged as part of a rapid and ever-changing branch of medicine, each promising to upset the status quo and transform human reproduction.

Following much activity in this area, the lengthy process of updating the legislation is now complete. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (HFE Act 2008) received Royal Assent on 13 November 2008. The majority of the HFE Act 2008’s amendments will come into force in October of this year, with the exception of the provisions pertaining to parenthood, which commenced in April 2009. Welcoming Royal Assent, Professor Lisa Jardine, Chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, stated:

“This is a momentous day for the HFEA and for those with fertility problems. The regulatory system that has served us so well has been renewed. Parliament has provided a clear framework for the future and a solid base on which to regulate 21st century practice within 21st century law.”1

However, as scientific endeavours into developments such as artificial gametes, womb transplantation and ectogenesis continue apace, it could be argued that Jardine was perhaps overly optimistic about the achievements of the new legislation. The HFE Act 2008 is an amending statute, and as Jackson2 notes “much of the regulatory architecture” in the 1990 legislation “remains intact”. In retaining the architecture of the 1990 legislation, and merely amending or adding certain provisions, has the government missed an ideal opportunity to consider how to equip the regulatory framework for the next phase/era of assisted reproduction?

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