The last post (about the US as major sperm exporter) raises important questions about the regulation of ART generally and third-party gametes in particular. As the post notes part of the reason the US dominates the world market is tied to the fact that in some regards the US is essentially unregulated while in other regards (STD testing) it is quite regulated. If regulation were uniform, the US would lose a lot of its competitive advantage.
This raises the question of regulation of ART. I’ve written before–with some frequency–about the inconsistent nature of ART regulation. Part of the problem is identifying the level at which regulation should occur. Should it be state by state? Nation by nation? In either case you get variation and inconsistency.
I want to tie this back to a post I put up a couple of weeks ago about ART regulation in Canada. The main national regulator is being disbanded, although there is some debate about the significance of this move. Just after I put up today’s post I came across this article. The headline pretty well sums it up–in the view of the authors of a study done at the University of Calgary, regulation province by province will be more effective than national regulation.
As someone familiar with the haphazard pattern of regulation you find state to state in the US this seems a curious conclusion. If the provinces enact different regulatory regimes, then people can evade the regulations simply by travelling next door. This is, of course, what happens as people travel between the US and Canada as well but creating more difference may not make things better.
But perhaps regulation should be more local rather than national. As the article notes (and as I think this blog demonstrates) many of the issues involved in drafting regulations are ethical or moral. If we’re going to legislate morality, perhaps it should vary state to state (or county to county or province to province). The study’s authors think these issues should be left to legislators, but that doesn’t tell us what level of legislators.
Though the article (and I guess the study) does not address it, I find myself thinking about international regulation as well. I think that for some people the idea of uniform regulation globally seems like a good idea. There is something appealling about it, I must say. But I find it impossible to imagine that this is possible in this field.
For instance, as I mentioned in the last discussion, countries differ in who is allowed to use ART. These differences are rooted in differing cultural as well as religious ideals of the family and how it ought to be constructed as well as different views of the importance of individual autonomy. Where would a uniform international standard come from?
I’ve really no conclusion to offer, I’m afraid. I do see that it is a mess out there and people get caught in between inconsistent legal regimes and people get hurt. I just don’t see any terribly clear solutions.