Human reproduction board lacks expertise, critics say
Board members at the Canadian agency that enforces laws regulating human reproduction are ill-informed and may stifle use of new technology, critics say.
Since the Human Reproduction Technology Act passed in 2004, the new agency, Assisted Human Reproduction Canada, has held one meeting.
Some members have spoken out against abortion, stem cell research and some standard proceduresforin vitro fertilization, said Beverly Hanck of the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada in Montreal.
"It's difficult to believe that they have their visors sufficiently open to view this new technology as it's happening, and in the world we're living in," said Hanck.
Dr. André Lalonde of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, who was on the selection committee that recommended board members, is also not impressed with the final selection, which includes two from the committee's short list. Lalonde said there is no one with direct expertise in the fertility field on the board.
"Nice, willing people," Lalonde said of the board members. "But they have no idea of what they're talking."
The chair, former Nova Scotia Conservative premier John Hamm, was phoned directly by the health minister's office regarding his appointment,CBC journalistKelly Ryan said.
Hanck played a tape of board member David Novak talking about his appointment. "Well, I received a phone call from one of the assistants to the prime minister," Novak said.
Seeking patient input
The panel on human reproduction includes no fertility doctors or patient representatives, while committees for other diseases such as cancer include patients, Hanck said.
"I've been advised that there is a former patient on the board, so I think Canadians should take comfort in that," said Health Minister Tony Clement to CBC News.
Hanck wants to know when thatboard member was a patient, what he or she knows about current technologies, and why the person is not identified.
Patients cannot express their concerns to their representative on the board if they don't know who the person is,Hanck added.
The board's president, Elinor Wilson, told CBC News the board hasways of getting input from patients if needed.
"We may need advice from those people," Wilson said. "The agency does have the capacity to establish committees and advisory panels where other expertise can be brought in."
The boardwill havean opportunity to begin its work over the next year, Wilson said.
The board has three empty positions that could be filled with fertility patients or doctors. Clement called that prospect"interesting,"but madeno promises.