The recent announcement of further UK rail strikes means we have had to make the agonising decision to move next week's PET Annual Conference entirely online. The industrial action scheduled for the day of the conference – Wednesday 6 December – will affect areas including the South East and South West. Many of the speakers, organisers and delegates would therefore have struggled to reach the conference venue.
Online or offline, the theme of this year's conference – 'How Much Change Do We Want? Updating Fertility, Embryo and Surrogacy Law' – could not be more timely. The UK's regulator of fertility treatment and embryo research, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), has just published its recommendations to the UK Government for law reform. The regulator's chair Julia Chain has summarised these recommendations in an article for BioNews, and we are delighted to have Julia speaking at our conference.
We will also be discussing the Law Commissions' recommendations for reform of UK surrogacy law, as discussed by the Law Commissioners in their own article for BioNews earlier this year. Meanwhile, the latest conference speaker to join our stellar lineup – Dr Hafez Ismaili M'hamdi – is one of the authors of the fascinating Dutch proposal to double the 14-day limit on human embryo research to 28 days, as we have reported here.
There's plenty more in our packed agenda, and it remains our intention for this to be very much an interactive conference, with a plenty of opportunities to put questions and comments to the speakers. We will also be holding an online 'afterparty', for anyone who wishes to join a less formal online conversation once the conference proper has ended.
One advantage of moving our conference online is that there are now more places available! So if you are interested in attending but have not yet registered, you can still register here. Meanwhile, the Institute of Medical Ethics has provided funding for 20 medical students to attend the conference free of charge, and medical students can apply for one of these places by emailing my colleague Sandy Starr at email@example.com
PET would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the sponsors – the Anne McLaren Memorial Trust Fund, the Edwards and Steptoe Research Trust Fund, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, Hertility, the Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists, Born Donor Bank, Carrot Fertility, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Merck, Theramex and the Institute of Medical Ethics – without whom a conference of this scope would not be possible. We hope you are able to join us.