The Library of Parliament’s Information and Research Service has released a background paper, “Legal Status at the Federal Level of Assisted Human Reproduction in Canada” [PDF] by Sonya Noris and Marlisa Tiedemann. The paper takes the reader though the recent history (1990 – present) of federal attempts at the regulation of this set of developing medical practices, culminating in a brief analysis of the Quebec constitutional challenge to the Assisted Human Reproduction Act culminating in the ambiguous / ambivalent response of the Supreme Court (4-4-1, so to speak) in Reference re Assisted Human Reproduction Act 2010 SCC 61.
According to the backgrounder, “the federal Minister of Health’s office simply noted that they would ‘take the necessary time to review the decision.'” Nothing has been forthcoming since that time, though it may be that the existence of the background paper bespeaks a revival of government interest. For, if the legal situation isn’t busy developing, the technology certainly will be, bringing with it trying ethical and legal questions.
Just to remind you about what that technology might entail, here’s a list of practices from the backgrounder that have at one time or another been forbidden or heavily frowned on:
- cloning of human embryos;
- commercial preconception or “surrogacy” arrangements;
- buying and selling of eggs, sperm and embryos;
- egg donation in exchange for in vitro fertilization services;
- germ-line genetic alteration (genetic alteration that can be passed to subsequent generations);
- ectogenesis (creation of an artificial womb);
- sex selection for non-medical purposes;
- creation of animal/human hybrids;
- retrieval of eggs from cadavers and fetuses for donation, fertilization or research;
- transfer of embryos between humans and another species;
- research on embryos beyond 14 days of development;
- creation of embryos solely for research purposes;
- use of human eggs, sperm or embryos for a reproductive procedure or for medical research without the informed consent of the donor; and
- offers to provide or pay for any prohibited practices.