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  1. Veronica English,
  2. Rebecca Mussell,
  3. Julian Sheather,
  4. Ann Sommerville
  1. BMA Ethics Department;

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    Review of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990

    Historically the UK has taken its time to ponder the controversial issue of regulating assisted reproduction, with a delay of some six years between the original call for legislation in the Warnock Report1 and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act becoming law. In between there was much consultation and debate – following the Warnock Report came a green paper (consultation document) in 19862 and a white paper (proposals for legislation) in 19873 before the bill was finally published in 1989. The review of the legislation is similarly being undertaken at a leisurely pace with plenty of time and opportunity for consultation. In 2003, we saw the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s Inquiry into reproductive technologies and the law, which reported in March 2005.4 This was followed in July 2005 by a full public consultation document from the Department of Health.5 The consultation ended in late November. References in that document to changes planned for 2008 imply that this is one piece of legislation that will not be rushed through.

    The government decided that some issues – such as the use of embryos for research – are firmly settled and will not form part of the review, whilst other fundamental issues, such as the role and scope of the regulatory body, are open for debate. While much of the consultation covered detailed aspects of the legislation and its interpretation, which are principally of interest to those practising in the UK, other issues were raised that are of more global interest. The UK, like a number of other countries, has recently changed its rules so that donors are no longer to be anonymous and offspring can, on reaching the age of maturity, obtain identifying information about the donor. Many people argued for this change on …

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