Press Release

Assisted Reproduction Commission set up

Mr Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children today (25th February 2000) announced that the Government had approved the setting up of a Commission on assisted human reproduction with the following terms of reference:-

“to prepare a report on the possible approaches to the regulation of all aspects of assisted human reproduction and the social, ethical and legal factors to be taken into account in determining public policy in this area.”

The Minister said “Major advances have taken place in recent years in the capacity of medical science to intervene in the process of human reproduction. Techniques such as in-vitro fertilisation, the freezing and storage of sperm and artificial insemination by donor are available in Ireland and have enabled many couples to conceive children despite impaired fertility.”

The Minister said that the ability of science to intervene in, control or even alter the natural process of the creation of human life poses fundamental ethical questions for the medical profession, for Governments and for society as a whole.

Many countries have legislated in recent years to set down the parameters within which such interventions can take place, while recognising that scientific development can often outpace the legislative controls. However, there is no such legislation in Ireland. Medical practice in this area is governed by Medical Council guidelines. These apply only to registered medical practitioners and would be ineffective in the case of any service operated by other persons.

The Minister said “I am conscious of the growing public concern that such complex and controversial procedures are being practised in Ireland in the absence of any legislative controls.”

The Minister believes that the establishment of a Commission is an essential first step before any policy proposals are brought forward. This would serve two purposes:

  • firstly, it would provide the medical, ethical and legal expertise necessary for a detailed examination of the possible approaches;
  • secondly, the publication of its report would provide the basis for informed public debate before the finalisation of any policy proposals.

The Commission will be required to seek submissions from the public and to consult appropriate interests. The Minister said that given the difficult nature of the issues to be examined, it was not possible to be definitive about the length of time it would take the Commission to complete its work.

The Minister is working on the composition of the Commission and this process will be finalised as quickly as possible.