Skip to main content

Embryology

Volume 707: debated on Tuesday 10 February 2009

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Lord Darzi of Denham on 22 January 2008 (WA 28) and 20 January 2009 (WA 197), why outgrowing human embryos are not considered as embryos by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority on the basis of views regarding their potential to implant, if the ability to develop if implanted in a woman is not an essential factor in defining the meaning of an embryo under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. [HL1116]

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 22 January 2008 (WA 28), whether Sections 3(3)(a) and 3(4) of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 permit an embryo to be kept in culture for longer than 14 days (notwithstanding cryopreservation) provided that the embryo is cultured in a manner that may be considered as suboptimal for natural development; and, if so, which section of that Act refers to suboptimal culture conditions. [HL1117]

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 20 January (WA 196–97), how the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority considered a broad range of available evidence if it did not consider data that appear contrary to its conclusions regarding culture of embryos beyond 14 days, as described in eight or more papers published between 1979 and 2005. [HL1118]

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has advised me that its Scientific and Clinical Advances Group has considered the characteristics of embryonic masses that form when embryos outgrow their structure. The group concluded that these entities should not be considered embryos as they do not have the 3D organisation of an embryo, do not have a relationship between extra embryonic and embryonic tissue essential for normal development and do not develop a primitive streak.

As stated in my earlier reply on 22 January 2008 (WA 28), the HFEA's Scientific and Clinical Advances Group has concluded that embryonic masses that form when embryos outgrow their structure should not be considered embryos. It is for the HFEA to determine what available evidence it considers in reaching a conclusion on a particular issue within its remit.

With regard to the interpretation of Sections 3(3)(a) and 3(4), the 14-day limit applies to all human embryos created in vitro.