Gynaecologist, PN cry foul at dissolution of Embryo Protection Authority

Gynaecologist Albert Scerri refutes suggestion that he had vested clinicl interest as member of IVF regulator.

Health minister Godfrey Farrugia has dissolved and reappointed the Embryo Protection Authority
Health minister Godfrey Farrugia has dissolved and reappointed the Embryo Protection Authority

The Nationalist Party has raised objections to the dissolution of the Embryo Protection Authority by health minister Godfrey Farrugia, who has announced a new board and replaced all former members.

The Embryo Protection Authority was constituted in January 2013 by the previous administration, and was supposed to vet applications by couples seeking IVF, as legislated in parliament the previous year. MPs banned embryo freezing and any form of IVF that does not employ the method of egg freezing.

But Farrugia's decision to dissolve the EPA was motivated by his claim that one of its members, ostensibly gynaecologist Albert Scerri, had a "vested clinic interest".

In a comment, Scerri - who is the brother of Nationalist Party candidate Victor Scerri - told MaltaToday that he had "absolutely no conflict of interest" as a gynaecologist.

Scerri, who works at both Mater Dei and the private St James Hospital, said that he is not trained in carrying out IVF. "As a gynaecologist my job is to refer patients to either a foreign or local IVF provider, and in the case of Malta, it would be either one of two such IVF practitioners," Scerri said.

Scerri also called into question the health minister's impression that the presence of a gynaecologist could raise a conflict of interest. "You need someone on this authority who has the technical knowledge that a family therapist or a psychotherapist does not have, when it comes to the science of embryos. Even our foreign counterparts across Europe have experts of IVF on their regulatory boards."

The new EPA chairman is now former judge Philip Sciberras, already appointed to a commission for the holistic revision of justice and the family commission, as well as the St Vincent de Paule home's management home. Other members are family therapist Simone Attard, paediatrician Patrick Sammut, psychotherapist Mariella Meachen and psychologist Pauline Baldacchino.

The former members consisted of former judge Albert Magri, gynaecologist Albert Scerri, paediatrician Valerie Said Conti, psychologist Clarissa Sammut Scerri, and Daniela Cassar from the Bioethics Consultative Committee.

The decision to dissolve and reappoint the EPA board was met with protest by the PN. "Farrugia thinks there should be no gynaecologists on the EPA but it is absurd that the experience and general know-how of a gynaecologist is not being appreciated and instead deemed as a conflict of interest," it said, referring to Scerri.

The PN also claimed that Farrugia had removed a "bioethics expert" from the EPA, ostensibly lawyer Daniela Cassar, who is reportedly in the process of obtaining her Master's degree in bioethics.

The PN said that even the United Kingdom's HFEA (Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority), included members who were practicing embryologists and IVF experts.

"The minister has accorded himself powers he does not have by dissolving the authority, when the law states that it is only the member with a conflict of interest who should be removed, and not the entire board. Farrugia is not only mistaken in what he considers to be a conflict of interest, but he is also taking the law in his hands and ignoring the clear rules that already exist," the PN said.

The law establishing the EPA states that persons ineligible to be appointed to the regulator are Cabinet members, MPs and election candidates, local councillors, or anyone who has a "financial or other interest in any enterprise or activity which is likely to affect the discharge of his functions as a member of the Authority."

The rules also state that the office of the EPA members will become vacant after five years from appointment, or "if any circumstances arise that, if he were not a member of the Authority, would cause him to be disqualified for appointment as such."

The minister may also remove a member of the EPA if he is considered tobe unfit for office or has become incapable of performing his duties due to infirmity or "for misbehaviour".

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Emmanuel Mallia
a photo illustrating his frustration on his face !
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Does anyone here understand that there is not one expert on embryos, on IVf or on bioethics on this new board ? or is scoring cheap political points the only thing that matters in this country ? This is like having a legal review board composed of doctors, architects and grocers
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Since it was a caretaker government the GonziPN administration should have never appointed a board, period. Sad to see though that the so called TeamPN seems to be no different from GonziPN - i.e.same mentality, PN=always right PL= always wrong and destructive rather than constructive criticism.
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Dawn kien imisshom irrizenjaw minn jeddhom. X'jippretendu li l-ministru jibqa kkakmat ghal 5 snin b'kummissjoni mghazulha minn ta' qablu. Kuragg ministru. Ghandek hafna x'tirranga. Ibda mill-isptar il-gdid ta l-onkologija. Ara li min jahdem hemm ma jkollux kunflitt ta' nteress li ghalih ihallsu il-pazjenti li biex jinqdew ikollhom imorru jaraw lil istess nies fil-privat. Kull vista fil-privat tiswa bejn hamsin u mitt ewro ta ftit minuti.
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The original board should not have been appointed in the first by the previous minister alone. Moreover it was a caretaker government, there was no moral justification just before an election. If anyone broke the law they should be taken to court, but if the previous members were honourable they should still offer their expertise if ever requested. Why all the fuss after all is there some hidden interest.?
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I expected the PN to cry foul at the change of members of the EPA but what I disagree about is the non inclusion of a gynaecologist. I have been aware several years of Dr Albert Scerri being Dr Victor Scerri's brother ,we have known Dr Scerri for many years and he is a very modest person and very approachable. How I wish all gynaecologists were like Dr Scerri!
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PN always cry foul when they wake up from their slumber! They had all the time in the world to do something and wasted it taking parliamentary breaks and recesses escaping and dodging Dr. Franco Debono and voted in Parliament! Time waits for no one, CARRY ON MINISTER and keep it up! Finally we have Ministers that work!
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Sa issa dan il-ministru dabbar zewg kritiki: kiser il-code of ethics u abbuza minn poteru.Tiftakru sur PNizi, meta Dr.G.de Marco ghamel lilu innifsu President tal-United Nations(ghax messna dan il-Post)u fl-istess hin baqa Ministru tal-Gustizzja jew Ingustizzja ghax heba l-Inkjesta fuq il-frame-up ta' missieri.Tiftakru meta Dr. EFA, ghax l-Inkjesta kixfet li kemm il-PN u kemm L-MLP it-tnejn kienu komplici fil-frame-up, dan abbuza minn poteru u heba din l-Inkjesta, u meta l-Onor Wenzu Mintof staqsa x'fija din l-Inkjesta hemm disturbanti ghall-PN. Dr.EFA irrispondieh li ma hux fl-interess tal-poplu.
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I do not agree with this mentality that excercising political vendeta's is right (there are too many musical chairs going on and so far nothing much has been delivered). However Albert Scerri is the brother of a man who was highly implicated for doing what he wants under PN government. However I disagree with putting a Judge who already has another post on another board. I think people qualified in the field should be put incharge of such issues a legal mind can not take medical descisions.
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Emmanuel Mallia
The worst performer, so far !
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If the 'Authority' was constituted by the caretaker Government (it surely took care of its own)why can't a Government who won a landslide victory change it? Thanks Malta Today for telling us that this Dr Scerri happens to be the brother of Victor Scerri ex President and candidate of GonziPN!
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The time when the PN for 25 years appointed its own blue eyed boys and only them and no more, is NOW FINALLY OVER. They can now lump it or accept it but stop calling foul when all the fouls were made by the arrogant, corrupt, discriminate PN especially under GONZIPN.
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While I totally agree that an expert on embryo science must be present on such a Board, I'd like to ask since when has a gynaecologist become an expert on embryo science?? A scientist generally holds a BSc in Biology and at least a PhD specifically in embryo science with, at best, experience working in that sector. A gynaecologist is a doctor specialized in the health and treatment of female illness conditions. So Scerri is right in his argument but, unless he has the specific qualifications in the field (i.e. PhD in embryo science), does not make him the correct contender for that post! Or is it just because he is V Scerri's brother?? Having said that both a gynaecologist (but not for the reasons as reported here by Scerri) and a true scientist must be on board.
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“The Embryo Protection Authority was constituted in January 2013 by the previous administration” – So this was constituted when the previous administration was just a caretaker government. I am surprised that the PN did not cry foul when the GonziPN government appointed the members on this board knowing well that they were just a caretaker government and that they should NOT have imposed their decisions on the administration that was to follow them especially when they knew that they were going to loose the election. – After many years voting PN, in the last election I voted PL for the first time as I could not stand any longer the arrogance and corruption of the GonziPN government. It seems that the mentality is still the same under BusuttilPN when I hear such condemnations from them especially when they should have not appointed any members during the caretaking period. I wonder if they change in the coming five years so I may consider returning to the fold as Busuttil wants.