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HFEA code to prevent embryo destruction without consent

Dr Kirsty Horsey
Progress Educational Trust
24 May 2003
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[BioNews, London] The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is to amend its code of practice later this year to make sure that all people who have stored embryos following IVF treatment are informed before any of them are destroyed.

In December last year, a change to the law was called for by Margaret Grant, from Inverness, Scotland, after embryos that she created during IVF treatment with her former husband were destroyed without her knowledge or consent. Mrs Grant had become divorced from her husband in January 2001. Five embryos that had been created using donated eggs and her former husband's sperm had been stored at the clinic where the IVF treatment took place. But, when Mrs Grant tried to continue the IVF treatment after the divorce, she was told that the embryos had been destroyed at the request of her former husband. The hospital trust that governs the clinic used by Mrs Grant said that she was not told because the eggs used were not hers.

David Stewart, MP for Inverness, has been supporting her case and, in February, introduced a 10-minute rule bill to the UK Parliament aimed at changing the law to protect the rights of both partners involved in IVF treatments. Mr Stewart asked the HFEA to change its code of practice in order to prevent the same thing happening to other people.

While the bill was not actually passed by Parliament, the HFEA and health minister Hazel Blears met with Mr Stewart, and the HFEA has now announced that its code of practice will be changed. The change will mean that although women in the same situation as Mrs Grant would have to be informed, they could only prevent the embryos being destroyed by going to court. A spokesperson for the Authority said 'legally clinics must have consent from both parties to continue to store embryos for IVF treatment. If either partner withdraws their consent then clinics must destroy the frozen embryos. The HFEA has now given guidance to clinics that they must take all reasonable steps to inform both parties either in writing or by telephone that the embryos are going to be destroyed. This clarifies the position for the clinics and the patients undergoing infertility treatment'.



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Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.



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