Two separate inquiries by the Australian Federal Government concerning human embryos have begun this month. In the first, six experts are meeting to study whether therapeutic cloning should be legalised. Several states, led by Victoria, the home of many biotech firms, want liberal regulations similar to Britain’s. The chairman, John Lockhardt, says that he is prepared for a torrent of passionate submissions from both sides of the debate.
The second inquiry is studying taxpayer funding for IVF. This was set up after Health Minister Tony Abbott failed to cut entitlements in the lead-up to the Federal budget. The IVF industry is alarmed because the terms of reference include not only the cost effectiveness of the procedure but also the “clinical appropriateness” and “societal impacts” of infertility treatment. Professor Gab Kovacs, a well-known IVF specialist, says that as a doctor he is concerned about the propriety of government interference in clinical decision-making.
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