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.
To educate its citizens about research into chimeras made from human and non-human animal cells, the United Kingdom's Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority published the consultation piece Hybrids and Chimeras: A Consultation on the Ethical and Social Implications of Creating Human/Animal Embryos in Research, in 2007. The document provided scientific and legal background, described ethical and social issues associated with research using part-human part-animal embryos, supplied a questionnaire for citizens to return to the HFEA with their opinions, and offered a list of resources for further reading to stimulate public debate. The strategy of surveying the public provided a template for developing further policy in the United Kingdom and other countries, as well as for educating citizens on embryological research.
In 2007, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in London, UK, published Hybrids and Chimeras: A Report on the Findings of the Consultation, which summarized a public debate about research on, and suggested policy for, human animal chimeras. The HFEA formulated the report after conducting a series of surveys and debates from earlier in 2007. The HFEA issued a statement in September 2007, followed by an official report published on 1 October 2007. Their report on human-animal chimeras set a worldwide precedent for discussions of the ethical use of those embryos in labs. The HFEA's report led the UK government to pass legislature about the use of human-animal cytoplasmic hybrid embryos for research in the UK.
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.
In June 2015, the Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, or ASRM, published “Use of reproductive technology for sex selection for nonmedical reasons” in Fertility and Sterility. In the report, the Committee presents arguments for and against the use of reproductive technology for sex selection for any reason besides avoiding sex-linked disorders, or genetic disorders that only affect a particular sex. When couples have no family history of a sex-linked disease, the use of reproductive technology for sex selection raises ethical questions about the application of sex selection technology to fulfill parental desires. “Use of reproductive technology for sex selection for nonmedical purposes” examines the ethical debate surrounding sex selection for nonmedical purposes and is an educational and ethical reference for physicians who are considering offering those services in their practices.
Karl Oskar Illmensee studied the cloning and reproduction of fruit flies, mice, and humans in the US and Europe during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Illmensee used nuclear transfer techniques (cloning) to create early mouse embryos from adult mouse cells, a technique biologists used in later decades to help explain how embryonic cells function during development. In the early 1980s, Illmensee faced accusations of fraud when others were unable to replicate the results of his experiments with cloned mouse embryos. Illmensee also worked with human embryos, investigating how embryos split to form identical twins.
Gattaca is a 1997 science fiction film produced in the US that depicts a future society that uses reproductive technology and genetic engineering in order to produce genetically enhanced human beings. By selectively choosing certain genes, scientists and physicians ensure that individuals born using reproductive technologies have desirable physical and psychological traits and prevent undesirable traits. The film tells a story of Vincent Freeman, a man conceived without the aid of reproductive technology, who works to overcome his genetic disadvantages compared to his enhanced counterparts in order to achieve his dream of a career in space travel. The film was directed and written by Andrew Niccol and released by Columbia Pictures in Culver City, California, on 24 October 1997. Gattaca addresses the ethical uses of biotechnology, gene manipulation, and genetic engineering, and the film helps illustrate the debate over human genetic engineering research and implications.
William Hunter’s Anatomia Uteri Humani Gravidi Tabulis Illustrata (The Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus Exhibited in Figures), hereafter called The Human Gravid Uterus, is an anatomical atlas depicting the pregnant form through both engravings and descriptions. William Hunter, an anatomist working in England during the eighteenth century, compiled the work based on observations from his dissections of pregnant women. The collection of thirty-four copper plate illustrations details the anatomy of the pregnant human womb (gravid uterus), and includes depictions of unborn fetuses at various stages of development. Hunter compiled The Human Gravid Uterus to provide an objective anatomical depiction of pregnancy and development at a time when midwifery and obstetrics were becoming prominent fields of medical practice in England.
“Test-tube baby” is a term used to refer to a baby produced through artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization, also called IVF. During artificial insemination, a physician injects carefully selected sperm into a women’s uterus to fertilize her eggs. During IVF, a trained professional harvests eggs from a female donor. Those eggs are fertilized with carefully selected sperm in a petri dish.