Experts criticise decision to shut down HFEA
Matthew Smart22 October 2010
Former members of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) spoke in the House of Lords against proposals to axe the UK's fertility watchdog on Wednesday. Baroness Ruth Deech, chair of the HFEA from 1994 to 2002, said 'splitting up the functions between five other committees' could endanger 'the world-wide reputation of this model of regulation'.
Former HFEA member, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, warned the risk of 'unfortunate incidents' may increase given the 'special ethical status of the early embryo'. He did not specify what these 'incidents' could entail.
Baroness Deech had asked health minister Earl Howe about his plans for the future regulation of human fertilisation and embryology. Earl Howe said the functions of the HFEA would be adequately covered by existing governmental organisations: '20 years ago it may have made sense to look at a single body for carrying out the functions undertaken by the HFEA'.
'Times have moved on and we think that there is a more logical way to parcel out those functions which does not dilute in the slightest the efficacy or the efficiency of the regulatory action', he said. The Government has proposed to reform nearly 200 arms-length bodies, including the HFEA, in what has been dubbed the 'bonfire of the quangos'. The reforms aim to save money and streamline public services.