Groundhog Day

Baroness Deech

This was the film where our hero found himself living the same day over and over again, and falling into the same traps.  And so it was in the Moses Room on Tuesday when we debated the proposed dismembering of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, and the Human Tissue Authority, and the transfer of their various functions into the Care Quality Commission and into another new medical research body, as yet unformed.  (So much for the government’s desire to reduce the number of quangos – it can only be achieved by creating more . . .) And so I, and Baroness Warwick (chair of the HTA) and Baroness Thornton, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, Lord Willis and some others repeated the well known arguments for keeping together the functions relating to IVF, clinic inspection, patient guidance, ethical decisions, the database of donors and treatments,  and embryo research, and not placing them in different departments.  Once again I pointed out that there would be no savings, for the HFEA costs £7m a year, of which all but less than £2m comes from the patients.  The process would be no cheaper or less bureaucratic if placed in different quangos, but there is a risk to our international reputation for advanced stem cell research and good safe IVF.  Moreover the public is very concerned about the treatment of embryos and related moral issues, and embryos do deserve special treatment.  Earl Howe, for the government, seemed to move a little and indicated that there would be one, if not two consultations on the proposals before they were carried through.  There may be faults in the way the HFEA carries out its work, but that is an argument for review, not reversal.  Common sense must prevail and we will continue to press for the HFEA and the HTA to be removed from the butcher’s menu in the Public Bodies Bill.

5 comments for “Groundhog Day

  1. Lord Blagger
    03/02/2011 at 8:54 am

    Once again I pointed out that there would be no savings, for the HFEA costs £7m a year, of which all but less than £2m comes from the patients


    So much for free at the point of use.

    We don’t need the HFEA.

    Any more than the UK needs Off-Bonk to decide who can have children and how in the non-medically assisted world.

    The only reason for something like the HFEA is if doctors are committing abuses of their patients and they need to be controlled.

    So Ruth are you going to name the Doctors who need to be controlled?

    • Baroness Deech
      Baroness Deech
      03/02/2011 at 5:30 pm

      A woefully uninformed comment. Nearly all infertility treatment is private, the NHS cannot afford it, so this is nothing to do with free at the point of use. And it is not about doctors. It is about research projects, laboratories, storage of embryos, names of donors, statistics and patient guidance. Have a look at

      • Lord Blagger
        04/02/2011 at 8:22 am

        No its not. It’s a question you don’t want to answer. Let me spell it out in detail for you.

        1. What’s the use of the HFEA if it doesn’t stop doctors from doing particular things? If there are no restrictions, then there is no point of the HFEA.

        2. So the HFEA is there to restrict what goes on. It wants to prevent doctors from performing particular treatments or procedures.

        3. So presumably the HFEA is there to prevent doctors harming their patients.

        So back to the question. Which doctors are the HFEA preventing from harming patients?

        Might it be one of your fellow peers you are trying to control? Lord Winston for example.

        Don’t you trust him to act in the patients interest? Nope, you want a quango to control him and his fellow doctors.

  2. Maude Elwes
    03/02/2011 at 1:56 pm

    Embryo research and its implementation is moving at such a pace that now the time has come for some independent review of the entire system and the differing uses this science is dealing with.

    Animal cloning and the said need for future farms entirely based on this method, is one the public, in general, is not given any true evaluation of. Too many scientist are persuaded by the people who pay their salary to give a clear picture of what the human outcome of these experiments can and will produce. Once again, ‘how much money can we make’ takes the lead in such debates. Rather than the moral values or humanity of the practice.

    What other countries or researchers think of the future moves to regulate these practices in the UK, or, the mulling over the true measure of the work is of no importance. What is important is that the very best outcome for mankind is found and adhered to. Regardless of what others may have in their pipeline.

    Embryos in the News and the changing minds on these matters are all more important to us as individuals than is accepted.

    From my point of view, the research into stem cell benefit is imperative, but how to keep tight and knowledgeable regulation is an enigma. Pandora’s box is open.

    IVF has taken a significant and uncomfortable move, from my point of view, with the determination, seemingly, to reduce the importance of mothers and motherhood.

    The move toward an egg being removed from one woman, fertilized and placed in another women, therefore removing all trace of who the female was, that supplied this prospective infant with its heritage, is a crime against humanity and an abuse of the resulting child. It reduces identity and removes heritage. And this is unconscionable.

    It reduces the concept of family and the sacredness of human life to the rights of the barnyard. A woman is placed in the position of an incubator, removing her rights as a human being and as a mother. And then additionally removing her right to know who, where and by whom that child is to be ‘sold.’ Smacks of the slave trade, which also turned out to be unacceptable.

    Surely it deserves serious scrutiny as well as a new look at what we are doing to mankind.

  3. Carl.H
    03/02/2011 at 3:46 pm

    “Quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation”.

    Is this the right type of organisation to handle such morally diversive science ? Or like the Charity Commission whom I know others loathe as much as me, is it a toothless enterprise that costs without real benefit to society ?

    I must profess to not knowing enough about decisions made by these quangos to understand fully the complexity of the proposed move or eradication.

    Without fully understanding how much Authority an authority has it is impossible to guage if they are just an auditing authority, or if they really do take decisions that make a difference and are able to enforce regulations.

    Is the Government proposal a typical Conservative motion of let the business regulate itself as was done with banks to a degree?

    My Lady’s list:

    “the functions relating to IVF, clinic inspection, patient guidance, ethical decisions, the database of donors and treatments, and embryo research.”

    Seem’s to imply we’ll just be losing the pencil pushers and the problem to me lays with how much authority these organisations have. I simply don’t know, I do know other quangos are less than useless to my mind.

    How do I tell one from another unless I am involved ?

    The dealings I have had with quangos suggests that they exist to protect those they were setup to administrate and in their isolated world together they form a bond that could be viewed from outside as unhealthy.

    Sorry simply do not know enough about HFEA and the HTA to make a qualified decision on it’s administrative powers and if they are worthy of continued being.

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