Medical risk: informing public policy on hormonal pregnancy tests, animal welfare and human germline manipulation

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Tim Lewens and Jesse Olszynko-Gryn’s work on medical risk and its proper governance has contributed to an official enquiry, parliamentary debates and training courses for pharmaceutical researchers.

Olszynko-Gryn’s research has focused on the history of pregnancy testing in Britain. These tests have been highly controversial because of strongly held views among patient groups that they caused significant harm to their unborn children. Lewens has had a longstanding interest in the ethics of risk and the manner in which policy debates around risk need to be handled by both technical experts and those well-versed in ethical analysis.

Lewens’s and Olszynko-Gryn’s work on the Hormonal Pregnancy Test (HPT) Primodos contributed to the launch of an official review of the regulatory handling of these tests, and their work informed the deliberations of the official review panel. Key beneficiaries include the review panel itself, members of the All Party Parliamentary Group dedicated to HPTs, and members of the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests.

Lewens’s work on the ethics of medical risk led to his being invited to join AstraZeneca’s new AWERB (Animal Welfare Ethical Review Body). He has given training courses for AZ researchers, and has influenced the company’s overall culture of care.

In addition, Lewens’s research on regulatory governance for risk has led to a role in the work of the International Commission on the Clinical Use of Human Germline Genome Editing; his earlier work with the Nuffield Council on Bioethics gave rise to decisive contributions to parliamentary debates on the legalisation of mitochondrial ‘donation’ technologies.

“The advice [Tim and Jesse] gave… was instrumental in informing our MPs’ successful calls in parliament for the launch of a new inquiry.”

– Yasmin Qureshi MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hormone Pregnancy Tests