Views And Reviews

The BMA's annual representative meeting

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: (Published 16 July 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:200
  1. L Beecham,
  2. J Smith,
  3. J Mayor,
  4. L Bristow

    If last year's ethical issue was euthanasia this year's was the beginning of life - and it proved less contentious than euthanasia. Dr Stuart Horner, chairman of the BMA's medical ethics committee, said that the committee had tried to steer a cautious course in responding to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's request for evidence on egg donation. In considering the harvesting of eggs after death he said there was a crucial difference between somatic and germ line organs. “If I give you my kidney it dies with you. If my daughter gives her eggs or ovaries the transplant will continue on into future generations.” His committee thought that distinction was sufficiently important for women to be asked to give specific consent and not simply on a donor card.

    Dr Caroline Marriott (council) thought that women were as capable of making a judgment about their ovaries as about their kidneys or corneas. Having accepted that egg and gamete donation was acceptable, then the only issue was one of consent. She agreed that fertility treatment was special, but “Let's not make it so special that we reduce its availability.” The meeting agreed and passed a motion accepting that salvaging ovaries from women who had died was ethically acceptable and that donor cards should include this option.


    The medical ethics committee received support for its recommendations on fetal donation of eggs. Dr Horner explained that researchers had long claimed a chronic shortage of eggs for research, which might be overcome if eggs could be grown in the laboratory from fetal eggs. If such research were brought under the HFEA's remit then research could continue for no more than 14 days and no implantation would be possible. The committee had concluded that such research should be permitted but that the development of such …

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