I’m of two minds about how to get things going again here. On the one hand, there are all these bits and pieces of news to highlight/comment on. On the other, having taken a step back, it’s probably a good time to revisit some “first principles”–the underlying assumptions that shape all those comments. Rather than choose, I’m going to try to do a bit of both. I’ll use the heading “News in Brief” for those items where I am playing catch-up on current events. (It’s a heading I used regularly a couple of years ago for a similar purpose.)
So here’s some new in brief. For some years, the UK has had a centralized agency concerned with ART. (That’s Assisted Reproductive Technology.) It’s called the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority, which is generally shortened to HFEA. It describes itself (as you’ll see if you go look at the homepage) as an “independent regulator. The HFEA also collects all sorts of interesting statistics, which are undoubtedly useful if one is thinking about making policy in this area. I’ve frequently commented about HFEA policies or relied on its statistics.
Now the HFEA turns out to be something called a “quango.” (You don’t really need to know this, but it is such a terrific acronym I felt I had to use it.) As part of its austere new budget, the ruling coalition in the UK has proposed abolishing a number of quangos, the HFEA among them. This seems to me a bad idea.
It’s not so much that I endorse everything the HFEA has done or plans to do. But (as is probably obvious) I think it’s quite important that someone be giving ART matters some systematic thought. Similarly, there are so many instances in which it would be helpful to have some actual data to rely on.
The US is the prototype of an unregulated ART marketplace. No one has reliable statistics about anything, really. And surely this makes it far harder to tell what’s going on and whether we need to do something about it.
Perhaps it seems like an indulgence to have a lot of people sitting around thinking about what ART policies ought to look like. But there are so many hard questions that we need to answer, I think we need all the help we can get.
I have no idea how likely it is that the HFEA will actually vanish, but I surely hope it does not. Of course, some of you may know a good deal more about this than I do–if, say, you live in the UK. In which case, I’m open to being educated.