Waikato student researching the policy implications of reproductive technology

17 January 2013

Rebecca Bollard

Policy implications: Waikato student Rebecca Bollard is looking at the policy around assisted reproductive technology that is changing the process of human reproduction.

University of Waikato student Rebecca Bollard has received a $25,000 Auckland Medical Aid Trust Scholarship to complete her research into deliberative decision making and how it could be used to create policy around assisted reproductive technology.

Rebecca’s PhD is looking at assisted reproductive technology (ART) such as in-vitro fertilisation, surrogacy, egg and sperm donation, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, and other new technology that is changing the process of human reproduction.

She argues that such technology brings with it a gamut of moral, ethical, cultural and religious objections that current consultation-based policy making would fail to properly represent.

Deliberative democracy

Her PhD is looking at the role of deliberative democracy - a process where citizens get together and talk to one another to develop policy - and how it could be used to form policy around ART.

“My project is looking at how governments make decisions about new and emerging reproductive technology,” says Rebecca. “Policy around reproductive technology is a difficult topic for governments to tackle because it’s hard to make policy about something that is so culturally, religiously, and morally divisive.”

“With ART there is such a diverse range of stakeholders, so it is important that any policy is developed through a deliberative process. This idea is of particular importance in New Zealand because our country is unique and diverse, and our politicians don’t necessarily represent that.”

Implications of ART

To conduct her research she will be interviewing potential ART users and practitioners, conducting surveys to determine different societal perspectives on ART developments and holding deliberative decision making sessions involving a range of participants.

“Things are changing rapidly in ART and if the issue of a clear and concise policy isn’t discussed, or the law doesn’t adapt properly, we will have all this technology with no regulation and there will be potential for the technology to be abused.”

The Auckland Medical Aid Trust Scholarship provides funds for individuals to undertake research towards a doctoral degree at a New Zealand university.

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