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Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (ACT) becomes law.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 is finally passed into law after much publicity and controversy. For the first time the use of embryos containing human and animal material is given a legal basis.

In 2004, the UK Government announced a review of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. A public consultation took place in 2005 and following much scrutiny received royal assent, passing it into law on 13 November 2008. The Act comes into force in two stages in April and October 2009. The Act does not alter the basic regulatory framework created by the 1990 Act but deals with controversial new technologies, setting out clearly what the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority ('HFEA') can and cannot license and so creating public policy in a highly sensitive area.

According to Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Health who introduced the Bill: 'Parliament's objective has always been to support scientific advances that benefit patients and their families, through a clear legal, moral and ethical framework that provides proper controls and safeguards and reflects the concerns that many people have about research involving stem cells and embryology.'

The Key Provisions of the Act are as follows:

* Ensuring that the creation and use of all human embryos outside the body--whatever the process used in their creation--are subject to regulation.

* A ban on selecting the sex of offspring for non-medical reasons. This puts into statute current HFEA policy. Sex selection is allowed where there is a particular risk that a woman will give birth to a child who will have or will develop a gender-related serious physical or mental disability.

* Retention of a duty to take account of 'the welfare of the child' when providing fertility treatment, but removal of the reference to 'the need for a father'. The Act also includes provisions regarding the parentage of a child conceived through a surrogacy arrangement. The aim of these provisions is to put same-sex couples on the same footing as heterosexual couples.

* Altering restrictions on the use of Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFEA) collected data to make it easier to do follow-up research.

* Amendment to licensable activities, specifically embryo testing. This is to clarify that the scope of legitimate embryo research activities can include the creation, keeping and use of human admixed embryos (embryos combining human and animal material).

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Publication:Journal of Commercial Biotechnology
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 1, 2009
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