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Ensuring operational compliance and ethical responsibility in the regulation of ART: the HFEA, past, present, and future

By Therese Callus


Under the Public Bodies Bill 2010, the HFEA, cornerstone in the regulation of assisted reproduction technologies (ART) for the last twenty years, is due to be abolished. This implies that there is no longer a need for a dedicated regulator for ART and that the existing roles of the Authority as both operational compliance monitor, and instance of ethical evaluation, may be absorbed by existing healthcare regulators. This article presents a timely analysis of these disparate functions of the HFEA, charting reforms adopted in 2008 and assessing the impact of the current proposals. Taking assisted conception treatment as the focus activity, it will be shown that the last few years have seen a concentration on the HFEA as a technical regulator based upon the principles of Better Regulation, with little analysis of how the ethical responsibility of the Authority fits into this framework. The current proposal to abolish the HFEA continues to fail to address this crucial question. Notwithstanding the fact that the scope of the Authority's ethical role may be questioned, its abolition requires that the Government consider what alternatives exists - or need to be put in place - to provide both responsive operational regulation and a forum for ethical reflection and decision-making in an area which continues to pose regulatory challenge

Publisher: Hart Publishing
Year: 2011
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