UK's Human Genetics Commission Abolished- Is the Public Interest Being Served?

by jeeg 15. October 2010 21:16

The official announcement from the UK Government on the future of quangos has confirmed the rumoured abolition of the Human Genetics Commission (HGC), which advises the government on new developments in human genetics.  Gone also are the Gene Therapy Advisory Committee (GTAC) and Genetics and Insurance Committee (GAIC), along with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and Human Tissue Authority (HTA).  

The HGC had a wide-ranging remit on issues of concern to the public, which were not tackled by anyone else.  Coming so closely on the heels of the abolishment of the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health and Society (SACGHS) in the US, the capacity for both governments to examine issues relating to genetics and medicine will certainly be reduced.

Just as genetic research and development is exploding across the globe, the need for ethical oversight has become even greater.  So why get rid of sophisticated oversight now?  My two cents is that it's a combination of two reasons.  Such bodies, by their nature, tend to slow down new developments while they are studied and their implications assessed-thats not usually good for business.  But its not that simple, what we are also dealing with is a new generation of scientists, with little to no training in ethics and social policy, who nonetheless think they know it all. 

Biotechnology is advancing rapidly and the benefits may be signficant for mankind.  But we must ensure that new developments advance public health, environmental protection, equal justice, and respect for human rights.  Do we really expect the public interest to be served all by itself?



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