The Foetal Sentience Committee Bill [HL] is a private member’s bill introduced by Lord Moylan (Conservative). It is due to have its second reading in the House of Lords on 22 March 2024. 

The bill would require the secretary of state to establish a Foetal Sentience Committee. The committee’s purpose would be to provide evidence-based, scientific expertise on the sentience of the human foetus in light of developments in scientific and medical knowledge. It would advise the government on the formulation of relevant policy and legislation. The bill would require the secretary of state to respond to the committee’s advice on formulating relevant policy or legislation. 

There are ongoing scientific, medical and ethical debates about foetal sentience and foetal pain and the implications for issues such as pain relief for the foetus during in utero surgery and the law and practice around abortion. Expert views have differed regarding at what stage of development a foetus can feel pain. 

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) published a review in December 2022 which concluded that “evidence indicates that the possibility of pain perception before 28 weeks of gestation is unlikely”. The government has tended to refer to an earlier RCOG review carried out in 2010 when responding to parliamentary questions about foetal sentience and foetal pain. It does not appear to have commented on the latest RCOG review.


Related posts

  • Infected blood scandal: Background, impacts, interim compensation and inquiry outcomes

    Between 1970 and the early 1990s, more than 30,000 NHS patients were given blood transfusions, or treatments which used blood products, contaminated with hepatitis C or HIV. Over 3,000 people have died as a result, and thousands live with ongoing health conditions. The infected blood inquiry has reported, calling for a range of measures, including immediate compensation, public memorials, and for lessons to be learned in medicine, government and the civil service.

    Infected blood scandal: Background, impacts, interim compensation and inquiry outcomes
  • Eating less sugar: Reformulating food and drink products and government policy

    Too much sugar in diets can contribute to health issues. Reformulating products, or changing how much sugar is in what people normally eat and drink, means the public do not have to change their habits to eat more healthily. Recent governments have introduced measures to decrease the public’s consumption of sugar, as well as salt and fat. However, some organisations have encouraged the government to go further by creating more mandatory schemes and levies for industry.

    Eating less sugar: Reformulating food and drink products and government policy
  • Challenges faced by people with disabilities

    People with disabilities can face additional barriers when trying to access services. The World Health Organisation has stated disability comes from these barriers rather the related impairment. Barriers can include online services that are not accessible, infrastructure that can be physically inaccessible and attitudinal barriers. The government has introduced policies to help address these barriers but disability charities have argued these have not been sufficient.

    Challenges faced by people with disabilities