The Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is, as its website says, “the UK’s independent regulator overseeing the use of gametes and embryos in fertility treatment and research.” But pretty soon it will just be a part of history.
I noted a little while back that the UK coalition government had proposed abolishing the agency. Today the government followed through on that plan. It seems the HFEA is a qaungo (which is a terrific word if ever I saw one) and the government and today was the government’s self-described “bonfire of the quangos”–it announced the abolition of 192 quangos. This is, of course, all about saving money.
As you can see from the news story I linked to, the HFEA is one of the more prominent of the quangos to go. A last ditch appeal to save the agency failed. You can find a more detailed list of the cuts here and if you scroll down to around the middle, you can see the listing for the HFEA. The notation says that the functions will be transferred to other regulators, as previously announced. I cannot find that previous announcement, so I don’t know what is intended, but I do note that it says “regulators“–plural, that is.
I do understand that there’s a budget crises and all that, but I wonder if this is wise. Here in the US we have largely unregulated ART and even record keeping varies greatly. To the extent there is regulation, some of it at least is on a state level, which virtually ensures a remarkably various array of rules. The idea of having a single central agency charged with overseeing matters seems a bit saner, although I can also see the arguments for allowing local variation. Surely the HFEA has allowed the UK, for better or for worse, to develop a more coherent and consistent set of regulatory practices.
This is not to say that I necessarily endorse everything that the HFEA has done or that I think centralized regulation is necessarily the answer. For those in the UK the real question will be what fills the space the HFEA occupied. As far as I can tell, we’ll just have to wait and see. If anyone knows better than that, perhaps you’d comment here?