New Zealand committee proposes legalisation of prohibited fertility practices
Progress Educational Trust03 August 2008
New Zealand's Advisory Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology (ACART) has announced two proposals to legalise currently prohibited fertility practices. It has published two consultation documents proposing first, that women should be allowed to use frozen eggs that had been extracted and stored prior to chemotherapy treatment for cancer and, secondly, that existing regulations on the creation of 'saviour siblings' should be expanded, to include not just siblings but also other close members of the family and also to extend beyond purely inherited conditions to others that might be amenable to treatment using donor tissues.
ACART, an independent governmental advisory group, indicated in its first discussion document that the time had arrived to legalise the usage of frozen eggs. Although freezing of ova has been permitted in New Zealand since 2005, it is only more recently that robust evidence has existed to demonstrate the safety of the technique, prompting ACART to propose steps to legalise its usage.
Additional advantages mentioned in the document include that egg freezing avoids certain religious difficulties surrounding the freezing of embryos and that, whereas those who can source suitable sperm at the time of freezing are currently able to store frozen embryos for use, others are discriminated against by only being able to store eggs which they are, at the present time, unable to use.
On the matter of 'saviour siblings', in the second document, ACART suggested that there is insufficient justification for restricting 'saviour' tissues to siblings alone. It further argued that as the existing rationale that the donor sibling benefits from PGD by being genetic disease free is spurious, the practice need not be restricted to inherited conditions. Objections based on the commodification of the child and of the potential psychological damage consequent upon this commodification were rejected, as was the possibility of allowing the deliberate selection of an embryo which contained a genetic disorder, on the basis that there was a morally relevant difference in purpose between selecting an embryo with a genetic disorder and selecting one without.
Early resistance to the proposals has been shown by 'Family First NZ' who criticised ACART for endorsing the production of children as 'spare parts factories for relatives' and for, in theory, making it possible for a women to give consent for her frozen eggs to be used by a surrogate mother after her own death, creating 'a baby beyond the grave' which would never know its genetic mother.
The New Zealand Ministry of Health, however, backed the proposals, saying that the proposed changes could potentially help infertile cancer sufferers to have babies and also help treat very rare diseases. ACART's consultations on the proposal to legalise frozen egg usage and on the draft guidelines for extended use of PGD both remain open until 5 September.
Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.