Keeping the scientists in step with society

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 24 May 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:1079

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  1. Lisa Hitchen
  1. London

    In the week that the UK government unveiled its bill merging the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Human Tissue Authority, Lisa Hitchen talks to the woman who will chair the new unified body, Shirley Harrison

    Hardly a week goes by in the United Kingdom when the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is out of the news. With one in seven couples having problems conceiving and greater pressure on assisted reproduction clinics to improve their success rates, together with rapid progress in research using embryonic stem cells, this is not surprising.

    So the job of heading an organisation that is responsible for monitoring treatment and research in the area of assisted reproduction is a formidable one. That task has been given to Shirley Harrison, who from January this year has been chairing the HFEA as well as the Human Tissue Authority, the body responsible for monitoring the use and storage of tissue samples.

    Ms Harrison will oversee the work of both authorities until, through new legislation, they merge to become the Regulatory Authority for Tissue and Embryos (RATE), expected to be in place in 2009 (see News doi: 10.1136/bmj.39222.535255.BE). A review of the 1990 HFEA Act is also due to take place, because many of today's ethical dilemmas were not anticipated when it was passed.

    After taking a philosophy degree at Lancaster University, Ms Harrison worked in marketing and public relations, later taking a variety of roles in public sector organisations, while in a non-professional role she has been involved in criminal justice, education, and health. She was chief publicity officer at Sheffield City Council from 1986, where she managed the city's communications concerning the Hillsborough stadium disaster. Later she lectured on public relations at Leeds Metropolitan University, and she has written or edited two books, Public Relations: …

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