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Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 [United Kingdom]

Embryo research is regulated by both the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, which makes general provisions in connection with embryo research, and the Human Reproductive Cloning Act 2001, which bans human reproductive cloning by and renders it a criminal offense. Article 1 of this Act considers an offender “a person who places in a woman a human embryo which has been created otherwise than by fertilization.”

Under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, an embryo is defined as “a live human embryo where fertilisation is complete.” This definition includes reference to “an egg in the process of fertilisation,” where fertilization is not complete until the appearance of a two-cell zygote. This Act prohibits the creation or use of an embryo without a license issued by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. A license may be issued for research involving the creation or use of human embryos for the purpose of:
(1) promoting advances in the treatment of infertility;
(2) increasing knowledge about the causes of congenital disease;
(3) increasing knowledge about the causes of miscarriage;
(4) developing more effective contraceptive techniques;
(5) developing methods for detecting genetic or chromosomal abnormalities in pre-implantation embryos.

In January 2001, regulations were made which extended the purposes for which embryo research could be licensed. These purposes include:
• increasing knowledge about the development of embryos;
• increasing knowledge about serious disease;
• enabling such knowledge to be applied in developing treatments for serious disease.

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