Medical Ethics Unit, Peking University Health Science Centre
Beijing, 1–5 April 2007
There are currently more than 88 assisted reproductive technology (ART) centres and 10 sperm banks in China (as of December 2006). Compared to other biomedical technologies, ART is relatively mature in China, although its increasing use in recent years has raised a number of issues, not only as concerns informed consent, but also issues of informed choice and the role of ethical review committees. Currently, the key priority of ethical review committees has been training for consultants who are to become representatives on hospital ethics committees.
ART comprise a range of biomedical technologies that have been extensively developed and widely applied in China, as well as in Europe. By their very nature they relate to the happiness, hopes and aspirations of humans, but are also surrounded by socio-economic factors and cultural understandings of fertility/infertility. They rely on the procurement, manipulation and assessment of gametes and embryos from human subjects in ART centres.
In the long run, a key element for ART and other biomedical technologies is good governance of these technologies. Good governance centrally concerns questions of ethics. Family, kinship and “blood relations” are very significant in China, which raises numerous ethical, social, legal and regulatory questions, especially when many infertile couples are eager to use ART to have offspring.
As such, these technologies have implications for professional conduct, the rights of patients, and individual and population welfare. Addressing these issues from different cultural perspectives of China and Europe in a workshop setting will be mutually helpful to practitioners and regulatory bodies from both regions. BIONET partners met in April 2007 to discuss and examine cultural differences and similarities around the topics of informed consent and the role of ethical review committees in ART.