The commission comprised members from the fields of medicine, law, religion and sociology under commission chair Dr. Patricia Baird, a pediatrician and medical geneticist. The commission followed a series of processes within an ethical framework that gave priority to families and communities and that involved wide consultation, input from all sectors and viewpoints, and appraisal of research evidence to reach its conclusions. The investigators assessed the application of a technology using the principles of autonomy, equality, respect and dignity, protection of the vulnerable, non- commercialization of reproduction, appropriate application of resources, accountability, and balance between individual and collective interests. The commission employed public hearings, toll-free telephone lines, personal interviews, focus groups and national surveys to collect the opinions of some 15 000 Canadians. The research and evaluation involved more than 300 researchers across 70 disciplines. The results revealed that Canadians had serious concerns about new reproductive technologies, including their potential threats to health, ethical dilemmas associated with them, and the potential for their adverse effects on particular groups such as women, children, families and the disabled.
The commission determined that some applications of new reproductive technologies are beneficial and should be supported, some uses should be prohibited, and others should be applied within specific limits. It recommended two immediate actions be taken by Parliament: changing the Criminal Code to prohibit certain practices related to the use of reproductive technologies and establishing a national regulatory and licensing agency. Such an agency would oversee practice in the field, protect Canadians from unsafe applications of reproductive technologies, and ensure that people who needed reproductive technologies would receive good information before using them.
The minister of health, in response to the recommendations, called for a voluntary moratorium on 9 practices in 1995, an action widely viewed as inadequate. In 1996 the first of 4 attempts was made to pass legislation governing reproductive technologies. It was not until March 2004 that Bill C-13, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, became law. The new law banned many practices, including human cloning, the sale of human ova and sperm, "rent-a-womb" contracts, combining human and animal DNA, and sex selection. It permitted other practices, including surrogacy, donating reproductive material, using embryos, sperm and ova to assist conception, and using human embryos and stem cells in research. The law also called for the establishment of the Assisted Human Reproduction Agency of Canada (AHRAC).
The AHRAC, headquartered in Vancouver, was formally established on 12 January 2006 and is responsible for administering the regulatory framework of reproductive technologies and enforcing prohibitions under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act.
Author LAURA NEILSON
Links to Other Sites
Index to Federal Royal Commissions
A bibliographic index of federal Royal Commission documents. From Library and Archives Canada.
Fighting Female Infertility
View a series of archival videos of news stories concerning the topic of female infertility. From the CBC website.
Assisted Human Reproduction Canada
A brief history of the legislation that led to the establishment of Assisted Human Reproduction Canada, the federal regulatory agency that oversees all programs and practices related to assisted human reproduction (AHR) in Canada. From Health Canada.
Glossary: Reproductive and Genetic Technologies
A bilingual glossary of some common terms related to reproductive and genetic technologies. From the Canadian Nurses Association. A PDF document.
Regulating 'assisted human reproduction'
A CBC feature about possible implications of Bill C-13 — the Assisted Human Reproduction Act.
Regulating Assisted Human Reproduction
UBC professor and reproductive health consultant Judith Daniluk talks about choices and dilemmas in regard to assisted human reproduction. A University of British Columbia website.
Reproductive Technologies: Surrogacy, and Egg and Sperm Donation
A brief overview of regulatory issues concerning surrogacy and egg and sperm donation in Canada. From the website for the Library of Parliament.