Tuesday Law Report: Tissue Typing Could Not Be Licensed under Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act ; Regina (on the Application of Quintavalle on Behalf of Comment on Reproductive Ethics) V Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority ( EWHC 2785 Admin) Administrative Court (Mr Justice Maurice Kay) 20 December 2002
Kate O'Hanlon, Barrister, The Independent (London, England)
HUMAN LEUKOCYTE antigen typing was prohibited by section 3(1)(b) of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, and could not be licensed under Schedule 2 to the Act.
The court allowed an application on behalf of Comment on Reproductive Ethics for judicial review of the decision of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to grant a licence for human leukocyte antigen typing.
The family of a child who suffered from beta thalassaemia major wished to use the technique of human leukocyte antigen typing, or tissue typing, to ascertain whether an embryo produced in vitro would produce a child whose tissue would match that of their existing child, and thus allow that child to donate to the existing child stem cell material from its umbilical cord.
The technique involved three stages: the development of an in vitro embryo to the six to eight cell stage; the removal of one or two cells from it by the process of embryo biopsy; and the analysis of genetic material taken from the extracted cells.
An application was made on behalf of the family to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) for a licence under Schedule 2 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 to perform the procedure. The licence was granted, and the claimant, who represented a group whose purpose was "to focus and facilitate debate on ethical issues arising from human reproduction and, in particular, assisted reproduction" applied for judicial review of the decision to grant the licence.
The first question which arose on the application was whether tissue typing involved the "use" of "an embryo" within the meaning of section 3(1)(b) of the 1990 Act. If it did not, it was lawful without the need for a licence. The second question was whether, if tissue typing did fall within section 3(1)(b), it could lawfully be authorised under the Act. …