21st July 2004

The British Fertility Society is pleased that the HFEA has made this important move forward#. Fertility doctors hope that this policy review will remove the apparent inconsistencies between decisions made for individual families that have caused so much confusion.

There have been significant developments in knowledge and medical practice since the HFEA act was published in 1990. In today’s IVF clinics we have the tools to ensure that we are helping to bring a healthy child into the world, by checking that an embryo doesn’t carry certain serious diseases. These same tools can help a family have a child that could save the life of his or her seriously ill older brother or sister. Some families now ask for our help in this way.

Policy reviews enable strict regulation to be maintained in a changing society, and ensures that in the UK these developments are used responsibly to the benefit of patients and their families.

Chair of the BFS, Professor Alison Murdoch today urged:

‘The often-used term ‘designer baby’ is misleading here – we are not talking about engineering a child to have a certain hair colour or aesthetic characteristic. This is about families being able to make a decision that their new baby could save the life of its older brother or sister.’

‘These are difficult, distressing and complex real life situations and the regulator does not take these policy decisions lightly. Additionally the families and clinic staff involved discuss every consequence of the procedures and their outcomes. This is the hardest decision some families ever have to make.’

‘It is important that the views and interests of the patients are always put first. Since it is their families that live with the consequences of these decisions, it is right that their views take priority.’

‘We support the consultation into reproductive choices that is being undertaken by the Human Genetics Commission* as this will clarify views about both preimplantation and postimplantation diagnosis. Hopefully the views expressed here will be taken into account in future policy decisions.’

NOTES

#Refers to HFEA press release ‘HFEA agrees to extend policy on tissue typing’ on Wednesday 21 July 2004

*A nationwide public consultation on the genetic testing of embryos and babies in the womb has been launched by the Human Genetics Commission.http://www.hgc.gov.uk/choosingthefuture/index.htm

The British Fertility Society, founded in 1972, has grown alongside the development of our speciality and now actively promotes the sharing of knowledge, further education and raising standards of practice. We are a national, multidisciplinary society of reproductive medicine representing andrologists, counsellors, embryologists, endocrinologists, nurses, and other professional groups working in this field.