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About United Kingdom Policies & Human Biotechnology

The United Kingdom's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), established in 1991, is often considered a model for regulating and overseeing human biotechnologies. It licenses and monitors all research involving human embryos, and all facilities offering in vitro fertilization or storage of eggs, sperm, or embryos. UK law does not permit certain activities involving human embryos.

The HFEA's 21 members are appointed by UK Health Ministers; at least half of them are required to be neither doctors nor scientists involved in human embryo research or infertility treatment.

To grant a research license, the HFEA must be satisfied that the use of human embryos is "necessary or desirable" for an enumerated purpose. The HFEA inspects licensed clinics annually; produces a Code of Practice that guides clinics on proper conduct; keeps a formal registry for donors, treatments, and children born; and conducts public consultations on controversial applications.

UK Womb Transplants: 5 Ethical Issuesby Rachael RettnerLive ScienceOctober 5th, 2015A new UK clinical trial would expose both patient and developing fetus to autoimmune suppressants, use uteruses from deceased donors, and require that clinical patients have a "long-term partner", even though alternatives to this radical new technology exist.
Womb transplants given UK go-aheadBBCSeptember 30th, 2015In 2016, 10 women will be chosen for an NHS-approved clinical trial to receive surgery to transplant a donated uterus, monitor organ acceptance for 1 year, and then initiate up to two IVF pregnancies before removing the transplant.
Why Some Parents Choose to Have a Deaf Babyby Rich WordsworthMotherboardSeptember 29th, 2015Genetic deafness is one of many conditions that can be screened for using PGD. That’s led to a surprising phenomenon: deaf parents using PGD not to avoid deafness, but to deliberately select for it.
Considering CRISPR: Putting a thumb on the scale?by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesSeptember 24th, 2015The National Academies have announced the date for their International Summit on Human Gene Editing. Are some of the organizers trying to predetermine the outcome?
The hidden risks for 'three-person' babiesby Garry HamiltonNature NewsSeptember 23rd, 2015"There's a definite possibility you'd see things like disrupted fertility function, various forms of metabolic syndromes and changes in things that relate to metabolism in general."
British scientists seek to edit the genes of embryos; bioethicists warn of potential dangers[cites CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Ariana Eunjung ChaWashington PostSeptember 18th, 2015In a "troubling and provocative move," UK researchers have applied to genetically modify human embryos, short-circuiting a nascent international conversation.
Center for Genetics and Society comments on First Application to Pursue Genome Editing Research in Human Embryos[Press statement]September 18th, 2015"If scientists and the regulatory agency in the UK are serious about responsible use of powerful new gene altering technologies, they won't be rushing ahead in ways that could open the door to genetically modified humans."
Sperm donation: Inside a deeply emotive world of powerful incentives, polarised views and heated debatesby Kate HilpernThe IndependentSeptember 13th, 2015Powerful incentives are at stake – women desperate for babies, the fertility industry seeking profits, and many donor-conceived offspring claiming their basic human rights are being violated.
Fertility Industry Errors Created Doubt over Parental Status of Sperm Donor Couples by Ruth McKeeThe Guardian [UK]September 12th, 2015A judge says the UK fertility agency's failures are "alarming and shocking," and reveal "widespread incompetence across the sector."
GM embryos 'essential', says reportby James GallagherBBCSeptember 10th, 2015A stem cell consortium issues a statement advocating for germline gene editing of human embryos, and that GM babies may be "morally acceptable" under some circumstances in the future.
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