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Regulation of assisted reproductive technology as regards embryos: UK and Australia.

This exploratory discussion paper looks at the possibility of reframing regulation of assisted reproduction away from its focus on the embryo. This could more closely align biological and legal understandings and ensure that the legislation and regulation of assisted reproductive technologies address the needs of the child-to-be, parents, public and health professionals. The author uses a comparison of Australian and UK legal frameworks to illustrate the difficulties in legal definition. Even scientists do not agree on a definition of the embryo, which is one in a series of stages in a process of continuous development, none of which has a definite beginning or ending. Terms such as "embryo" are also vulnerable to technological advance and open to legal challenge. An alternative legal approach could be one which is not tied to biological terminology, but which states clearly the desired outcome of a medical intervention and the requirements for intent to reach such outcome, regulated through a system of prohibitions and licences. The writers give examples of this approach in Australian law. Combining this approach with one in which all the different parts of the developmental process are united in a single concept--as in the case of the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's use of the term "human genetic material" could bring greater coherence to legislation. (1)

(1.) Johnson MH. Escaping the tyranny of the embryo? A new approach to ART regulation based on UK and Australian experiences. Human Reproduction 2006;21(11)2756-65.
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Title Annotation:ROUND UP: Law and Policy
Publication:Reproductive Health Matters
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:May 1, 2007
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