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Parents embark on legal parenthood battle due to Fertility Clinic mistakes

View profile for Stephanie Bellchambers
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In September, the English High Court published a judgement highlighting mistakes made by UK fertility clinics relating to the creation, storage and implantation of human embryos as well as leaving 8 couple’s legal parentage in question.

President of the Family Division Sir James Munby has recommended that consent forms issued by fertility clinics to prospective parents using a sperm donor should be double-checked before treatment starts.

Fertility clinics should issue consent forms for completion before fertility treatment. Both parties should also undergo counselling and receive “adequate information”.

The catalogue of errors was brought to light following a 2014 audit by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) of patient’s consents to legal parenthood. All 8 cases involved children who had been born via donor insemination but in circumstances where statutory requirements had not been complied with.

Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division, told the court:

“The question of who, in law, is or are the parent(s) of a child born as a result of treatment carried out under this legislation – the issue which confronts me here – is dealt with in Part 2, Sections 33-47 of the 2008 Act. It is – as a moment’s reflection will make obvious – a question of the most fundamental gravity and importance.

“What, after all, to any child, to any parent – never mind to future generations and, indeed, to society at large – can be more important emotionally, psychologically, socially and legally, than the answer to the question: Who is my parent? Is this my child?”

“This judgment relates to a number of cases where much joy – but also, sadly, much misery – has been caused by the medical brilliance; unhappily allied with the administrative incompetence, of various fertility clinics.

“The cases I have before me are – there is every reason to fear – only the small tip of a much larger problem,” he added.

He ruled in favour of seven of the parents seeking parental declarations –  the remaining case has been adjourned for a hearing at a later date.

This case highlights how important it is to obtain legal advice and manage the paperwork associated with undergoing treatment at UK Fertility Clinics.