LC Paper No. CB(2) 1643/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/BC/3/98
Bills Committee on
Human Reproductive Technology Bill
Minutes of the seventh meeting
held on Wednesday, 20 January 1999 at 8:30 am
in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building
Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan (Chairman)
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP
Hon LAW Chi-kwong, JP
Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Public Officers Attending:
Clerk in Attendance:
- Mr Gregory LEUNG Wing-lup, JP
- Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare 1
- Mr Eddie POON
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare (Medical) 3
- Mr Clement LAU Chung-kin
- Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare (Medical) 6
- Dr Constance CHAN
- Assistant Director of Health (Health Administration and Planning)
- Dr Thomas CHUNG Wai-hung
- Principal Medical and Health Officer (3)
- Mr G A FOX
- Senior Assistant Law Draftsman
- Miss Frances HUI
- Government Counsel
Staff in Attendance:
- Ms Doris CHAN
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 4
I. Meeting with the Administration
- Mr LEE Yu-sung
- Senior Assistant Legal Adviser
- Mrs Eleanor CHOW
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 4
Committee Stage Amendments (CSAs)
Senior Assistant Law Draftsman (SALD) said that he would assist members in drafting their CSAs to the Human Reproductive Technology Bill (HRTB), to ensure consistency in drafting and to work out the sequence and the consequential amendments. He said that similar arrangements had been made with other bills committees before. Members thanked him for his assistance.
2. Senior Assistant Legal Adviser explained that usually the Legal Service Division would draft CSAs on behalf of the Bills Committee, if the amendments were not supported by the Administration. In the case that CSAs were drafted by the Administration, the Legal Service Division would continue to assist the Bills Committee by ensuring that the CSAs were in order legally.
Checklist of outstanding issues
(LC Paper No. CB(2)1112/98-99(01))
3. Members went through the checklist item by item.
Item 1 - binding on the Government
4. Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare (DSHW) said that subject to the decision of the Bills Committee, the Administration was prepared to include the provision that "this Ordinance binds the Government" in the HRTB. He said that although the Department of Health was not involved in reproductive technology (RT) activities, he was concerned that it might inadvertently be engaged in certain RT activities in the course of executing the policies in the HRTB. For instance, performing certain tests to ascertain whether a clinic was illegally engaged in certain RT activities.
Item 2(a) - licensee and person responsible
5. Principal Medical and Health Officer (PMHO) said that at the meeting held the week before, the Provisional Council on RT (PCRT) had discussed whether the licensee and the person responsible should be two separate persons. The PCRT held the view that under certain circumstances, they could be the same person. The Administration was considering the views of the PCRT.
|6. Dr LEONG Che-hung said that he did not advocate that the licensee and the person responsible must be the same person. He considered that the law should have the flexibility to allow for the licensee and the person responsible to be the same person under certain circumstances, apart from the provision requiring that they should be two separate persons. He said that he would move a CSA to that effect.||Adm |
|7. DSHW said that the Administration still considered that requiring the licensee and the person responsible to be two separate persons would facilitate a check and balance system which would safeguard the interests of all parties concerned. Having regard to the views of Dr LEONG and the PCRT, the Administration was now exploring means to provide flexibility and checks and balance at the same time.||Adm |
Item 3(a) - chairperson and deputy chairperson of the Council on RT (the Council)
8. DSHW said that the Administration was of the view that the prohibition against medical practitioners from being the chairperson and deputy chairperson would enhance the credibility of the Council. Having considered the views from the medical profession and members, the Administration was prepared to move a CSA to repeal the provision, subject to the decision of the Bills Committee.
|9. The Chairman said that since members had not reached a decision on the matter, the Bills Committee would let the Administration know its stance at the next meeting. Dr LEONG Che-hung said that the prohibition against certain persons from being chairperson or deputy chairperson could be arranged by administratively means instead of expressly written in law. He said that if the Bills Committee did not reach a consensus view, he would move a CSA to repeal the provision.||Adm |
Item 3(b) - licensee and person responsible to be members of the Council
10. DSHW said that the Administration maintained the view that there would be conflict of interest if the licensee and person responsible were to be appointed members of the Council. Members agreed.
Item 4 - Code of Practice (COP)
|11. Members noted that the Administration had just passed a copy of the draft COP to the Bills Committee. The Administration undertook to brief members on the COP at the next meeting.||Adm
Item 8 - access to information
12. The Chairman said that members held different views as to whether the donor's identity should be disclosed. The Bills Committee would discuss its stance at the next meeting.
Item 9(b) - protection for a surrogate mother
13. DSHW explained that labour legislation had set out the entitlement of an employee during pregnancy without regard to her cause of pregnancy. He considered that existing law had provided sufficient protection to a surrogate mother. Members agreed. Since the concern was raised by Miss CHAN Yuen-han, who was not present at the meeting, the Chairman said that Miss CHAN would be asked to respond at the next meeting.
Item 11(a) - record on RT activities
14. The Chairman said that Mr Michael HO, who was not present at the meeting, would be asked to indicate his stance at the next meeting.
(LC Paper No. CB(2)979/98-99(01))
15. PMHO introduced the paper which summarized the PCRT's discussion on sex selection. Dr LEONG Che-hung said that he apprehended the difficulty of producing a list of severe sex-linked genetic diseases. In response to a question from the Chairman, DSHW assured that proper professional counselling on likely problems of RT procedures including sex-linked genetic diseases would be provided to the commissioning couple. In response to a further question from the Chairman, PMHO explained that selection of sex for social reasons would mean reasons that were not related to medical reasons. Members raised no more queries on sex-linked genetic diseases.
16. Dr LEONG Che-hung asked whether sex selection under artificial insemination by husband (AIH) was prohibited and if so, he suggested that the drafting of the HRTB be improved to avoid confusion.
|17. DSHW pointed out that under section 2(1) regarding the definition of RT procedure, a gender selection achieved or intended to be achieved by means of a RT procedure is also included as a RT procedure. PMHO added that section 2(2) empowered the Secretary for Health and Welfare (SHW), by notice in the Gazette, to specify a procedure to be or not to be a RT procedure. In this regard, SHW might specify by notice in the Gazette that AIH was not a RT procedure so as to allow AIH without specific statutory control. However, SHW might at the same time specify by notice in the Gazette that sex selection under AIH was a RT procedure in order to regulate all RT related sex selection. Dr LEONG Che-hung said that he was concerned about possible loopholes which might lead to abuse. For instance, it was not clear whether sperm sorting technique was prohibited under the law. DSHW said that he would consult the law draftsman with a view to enhancing clarity of the relevant provisions. ||Adm |
18. On Dr LEONG Che-hung's concern about a mother using health as an excuse to abort a baby who was not the preferred sex, DSHW responded that this would happen even to non-RT cases. He said that under these circumstances, the doctor would be in the best position to advise whether the mother was physically fit to carry the baby.
Meeting of the PCRT on 14 January 1999
19. At the invitation of the Chairman, PMHO briefed members on the issues discussed by the PCRT on 14 January 1999 as follows -
- As reported under paragraph 5, the PCRT considered that under certain circumstances, the licensee and the person responsible could be the same person;
- The PCRT considered that the qualification of person responsible set out in the HRTB and the COP was adequate;
- As to some members' suggestion to put in place a monitoring mechanism for imported sperm, the PCRT considered that the issue warrant attention and suggested that conditions for importation of gametes and embryos would be set out in COP or regulations; and
- On cryopreservation, the PCRT considered that the policy did not need to be written in law for the time being, although it might be necessary to make regulations or guidelines in the COP in future to monitor and control the service.
20. Dr LEONG Che-hung said that in the absence of a policy on cryopreservation in law, a RT centre could provide the service on personal or medical grounds. He expressed concern about ethical implications and possible commercialisation of the service. He noted that the COP would specify the maximum storage period for gametes and embryos to be 10 years, to safeguard the interests of RT centres. PMHO said that donors had to consent in writing and specify the purpose(s) for which their gametes or embryos might be used. Anyone consenting to store the gametes or embryos had to specify the maximum storage period. In case where gametes or embryos were to be stored for own use, the donors had to state what should be done with the gametes or embryos if they died.
21. The Chairman commented that with its rapid development, RT was tantamount to playing God by providing various choices to couples. Dr LEONG Che-hung echoed that RT had become more of an ethical and moral issues rather than a medical issue with advanced technologies. DSHW said that under any circumstances, the welfare of the child was of paramount importance. To this end, no posthumous use of gametes or embryos by the surviving spouse would be allowed.
22. A discussion on whether a single parent family was best for the child followed. Mr LAW Chi-kwong held the view that it would not be fair to assume that a single parent family was not good for the child. He cited a child adoption case in 1992 whereby the court recommended that child adoption should not be restricted to a family with both parents or with a female parent, rather the provision should be deleted to adopt the primary consideration of the best interests of the child. The court also recommended that adoption cases should be considered on individual basis, otherwise it would constitute discrimination against marital status.
23. Dr LEONG Che-hung said that since the ultimate outcome of RT was the production of children, the welfare of the child was of paramount importance. He agreed with DSHW that a family with both parents would provide better protection and welfare for the child. Dr LEONG said that for the same reason, RT procedures should be allowed for married couple only. He said that although a child might receive the same kind of attention and care from a loving single parent, there were other intangible factors, such as peer group pressure, that might adversely affect the healthy development of the child.
24. Mr LAW Chi-kwong said that he was aware of discrimination against children who came from single parent families, however the prohibition against single parents should not be expressly written in law or the COP. He said that if a couple had made a rational decision and was well prepared to have children in the future irrespective whether one of them might die shortly, he saw no reason why posthumous use of gametes or embryos by the surviving spouse should not be allowed. He held the view that the broad principle of taking great care of the welfare of the child should be provided in law or COP, while factors such as financial condition, marital status and family background of the commissioning couple should not be specified in law or COP so that individual cases could be handled flexibility. Dr LEONG commented that it was necessary to strike a balance between flexibility and abuse. He held the view that clear guidelines on cryopreservation should be provided for RT centres. DSHW reiterated that it might be necessary to make regulations or guidelines in the COP in future.
II. Dates of next meetings
25. The next two meetings would be held on 9 and 23 February 1999 at 8:30 am. Members agreed that Dr CHAN Ho-man of the City University of Hong Kong, who had earlier given views on the Human Organ Transplant (Amendment) Bill 1999, should be invited to give views at the next meeting on 9 February 1999 if he was available.
(Post-meeting note : Dr CHAN Ho-man attended the meeting on 23 February 1999 instead of 9 February 1999.)
26. The meeting ended at 10:10 am.
Legislative Council Secretariat
29 March 1999