I’ve been at a PROGAR (Project Group of Assisted Reproduction) meeting for most of today. This is a group that emerged out of the British Association for Social Work in the mid-eighties as being interested in the welfare of children conceived by assisted reproduction. They gave evidence to the Warnock Committee prior to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, implemented in 1991, and then campaigned for the ending of anonymity for donors. This goal achieved with the 2005 legislation they have since monitored how it has been implemented the many policy and legislative twists and turns since that time. Surrogacy has now become an important part of the agenda with a 300 per cent rise in couples undertaking this way of making a family…egg donation being an important part of the process for many, as more and more intending parents opt for no genetic link with the surrogate. It is becoming clear, that despite legislation to the contrary, fixed sums are being paid to surrogates who are increasingly seeking to fund lifestyle changes through bearing a child for those who cannot do so themselves.
At the meeting we learned that it is highly unlikely that the HFEA will be removed from the Public Bodies Bill currently going through Parliament. Before the end of the year there will be a public consultation on how the functions of the HFEA should be distributed and administered. Progar and DCN’s interest is particularly with how the register of donors and donor conceived people will be managed and apparently recommendations will be set out in the consultation. Following the ‘payment’ decision last week neither Progar nor DCN have much faith in the HFEA’s integrity with regard to safeguarding the interests of donor conceived people, but have no reason to believe that the CQC has any expertise in this area to bring to this sensitive issue. Responses to this consultation from those who understand how important the information on the register is – and how information on it should be conveyed in a supportive way to those who have good reason to make enquiries – will be vital to good decisions being made. We all have to bear in mind, however, what the new DoH civil servant present at our meeting today emphasised…the reason for abolishing the HFEA is to save money. Chilling.