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Government, Opposition, to hold talks on IVF law

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi indicated this evening that the government would remove a requirement in the IVF Bill which provided that prospective parents would need the go-ahead by the Regulatory Authority to have IVF treatment.

The proviso had been criticised by the Opposition and independent MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando.

Speaking in Parliament, Dr Gonzi said both sides of the House agreed on the need to have a Regulatory Authority. The important thing, he said, was that the Authority would have the means to monitor, investigate and take whatever action was needed to ensure that standards were maintained.

He noted that there was also some disagreement on whether there should be a limit on the number of embryos that should be implanted and whether such a limit should be in the law.

The advice which the government was constantly given was that the limit should be laid down in the law.

The Bill laid down a limit of two embryos , with exceptions for particular cases, and this was the direction towards which other countries were also heading.

He said that the  government had handed the Opposition proposed amendments to the Bill and was awaiting the Opposition's proposals with a view for consensus to be reached within the next 24 hours.

He was therefore proposing that the debate should be put off tomorrow so that talks could be held, as required, for total consensus to be reached on this Bill.

Earlier, Dr Gonzi said the Maltese were proud of their values, of which the best was respect for human life, about which there was total agreement between both parties.

There was therefore agreement in Parliament that embryos should be protected. 

There was no doubt that assisted procreation needed to be regulated. It should not be stifled, because there was nothing better than the miracle of life. But there needed to be regulation to prevent abuse.

Happily, technology had advanced such that the freezing of embryos was now no longer needed since once could use vitrification.

Dr Gonzi noted that the Bill banned experimentation and abusive use of fertilised eggs. Embryos may not be removed from one woman to be implanted in another.

Surrogate motherhood and the mixing of human and animal cells were also being prohibited. Nor could embryos be destroyed because this amounted to killing.

Dr Gonzi noted that all these could be done in Malta so far, hence the need for regulation.

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