New biotech laws for Malta
La Valetta - After a broad discussion process Malta's Social Affairs Committee has presented a draft regulation on biotechnology and assisted reproduction to the parliament in July.
According to the proposals the fertilised ovum will be given the status of an embryo with full human rights. Consequently, creation of embryos for research purposes and cloning will be prohibited. But cells extracted from the umbilical cord blood, placenta, as well as adult stem cells could be used for research, while cells from a natural miscarriage are accessible only with the permission of the parents.
Genetic diagnosis should be allowed on condition that it is used for medical and forensic reasons only, or to correct specific abnormalities in the embryo. Pre-implantation diagnosis will be prohibited, pre-natal testing should be allowed if there is a possibility of the parents passing on a genetic disease to their children.
Assisted procreation should be allowed under certain conditions: third party donors and surrogate motherhood should not be allowed. In cases where the parents are not able to use the embryos - due to the mother's death, for example - these embryos can be put up for adoption according to Maltese law.
Nationalist MP Clyde Puli - Chairman of the Committee - pointed out that after seven months of discussion, the time has come to take a decision. Concerning the protest of members of opposition he added that once the law was implemented, changes could be made through a legal notice.
However, the Committee's recomendations have been met with mixed reactions in professional circles. While many medical professionals agree that it is important to include a clear legal definition of the beginning of human life, most doctors seem to see the definition put forward by the Committee as, at best, “a conservative compromise.” Especially gynaecologists have expressed their concern that the Committee's definition might “hinder the process of IVF”.