Genes, Society and the Future, Volume I, Part Two - The Advisory Committee on Reproductive Technologies: The Role of Public Consultation in Decision-Making
GENES, SOCIETY AND THE FUTURE, Vol. 1, Part 2, Human Genome Research Project, Dunedin, NZ, 2007
49 Pages Posted: 3 May 2011
Date Written: October 24, 2007
The Advisory Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology (ACART) has a crucial role in regulating assisted reproductive technology in New Zealand. The HART Act 2004, which establishes and provides ACART with direction for its deliberations, allows for wide parameters within which the Committee can operate.
The deliberations of ACART and its engagement with the public are an integral part of its successful functioning. Given the vital role that the Committee plays in regulating assisted reproductive technology in New Zealand, particularly through the issuing of guidelines for use by the Ethics Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology (ECART), it is important that ACART takes a considered approach with regard to its deliberations.
The HART Act 2004 requires that the Committee undergoes consultation and takes public submissions into account in the formation of guidelines. Given the flexibility of the HART Act 2004, there are strong democratic reasons in favour of involving the public in the development of ACART guidelines. It is therefore important for the Committee to establish its approach towards involvement of the public. This will assist the Committee in its functioning, and also give members of the public some insight into what they can reasonably expect from the consultation process.
The approach that ACART takes regarding the use of information arising from public consultation will depend on its overall method of deliberation. The example provided by the Environmental Research Management Authority (ERMA) shows a thorough approach towards establishing the deliberative workings of a committee adjudicating over ethical matters. The breadth of issues that ACART must consider would favour the establishment of a less rigid and less formal approach than that of ERMA, while retaining the advantages of robustness.
The information provided through consultation can meaningfully contribute to ethical deliberation. It can provide real-world considerations that are likely to influence the effectiveness or consequences of ethical policy. It can help to reveal the range and nature of interests, and therefore the potential harms, benefits and wrongs that should be considered in reaching a decision. The reasoning of the Committee should be clear and reasonable.
It is important for ACART to demonstrate transparency of reasoning, especially in relation to the way in which a decision was reached by the Committee and why a particular decision was favoured over others that were also considered.
Keywords: Law, Genetics, Ethics, Human Genome, Genes
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