The Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology, commonly called the Warnock Report after the chair of the committee Mary Warnock, is the 1984 publication of a UK governmental inquiry into the social impacts of infertility treatment and embryological research. The birth of Louise Brown in 1978 in Oldham, UK, sparked debate about reproductive and embryological technologies. Brown was conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF), a process of fertilization that occurs outside of the body of the woman. At the time IVF was largely unregulated in the UK, both in law and within the protocol of the National Health Service (NHS), headquartered in London, UK. The Warnock Report recommended, and is credited with, establishing a governmental organization to regulate infertility treatments such as IVF and embryological research in general. In 1990, the UK established this governmental organization as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in London.
Baroness Mary Warnock of Weeke, a philosopher and crossbench member and Life Peer of the United Kingdom's House of Lords, participated in several national British committees of inquiry that dealt with ethical and policy issues surrounding animal experimentation, pollution, genetics, and euthanasia to educational policies for children with special needs. One of these was the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilization and Embryology, of which Warnock was the chair. The 1985 Warnock Report issued subsequent to this inquiry led to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990, passed in the British House of Commons, and to the creation of the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in 1991. Warnock has published a number of books on topics including existentialism, imagination, reproductive rights and research ethics, euthanasia, the place of religion in politics, as well as several memoirs.
In 1991, the United Kingdom established the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) as a response to technologies that used human embryos. The HFEA is a regulatory power of the Health and Social Services Department in London, UK, that oversees the implementation of reproductive technologies and the use of embryos in research within the United Kingdom. It establishes protocols by which researchers may use human embryos, develops legislation on how human embryos are stored and used, monitors human embryological research and artificial fertilization procedures, and prosecutes those who violate terms of embryo use. The HFEA collects, monitors, and distributes data related to human embryology and embryological research. The HFEA also records international studies involving human embryos and fertilization, hosts ethical debates, and shares collected information with the public and scientific communities.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 established the legal framework that governs infertility treatment, medical services ancillary to infertility treatment such as embryo storage, and all human embryological research performed in the UK. The law also defines a legal concept of the parent of a child conceived with assisted reproductive technologies. Section Five of the Act establishes the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the first of its kind in the world, to enforce and regulate the responsibilities that scientists, doctors, and prospective parents have towards embryos and to each other. Upon introducing the act to the House of Commons, the Secretary of State for Health of the time, Kenneth Clarke, said the bill was in his opinion the most important piece of legislation considered by the government in two decades.