Personal Injury, Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

More errors in the world of IVF

The Court is yet again obliged to deal with failings on the part of an IVF clinic to properly complete basic paperwork.

In October 2015 we considered the thoughtful and compassionate decision of Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, in Re A and others (read our earlier blog) dealing with errors in paperwork completed by fertility clinics giving rise to uncertainty as to the legal parentage of a child born by IVF. As Sir James put it at the time

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.”

A little more of the iceberg has now been uncovered in In the matter of Re G (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008) [2016] EWHC 729 (Fam).

The facts are not dissimilar to Re A and arise from a failure of the clinic staff to complete forms correctly. In this case X was the biological mother of twins, in a relationship with another woman, Y, who was their gestational mother. Y was, in law, the mother of the children at birth. She was also in a civil partnership with another woman, CP, who could have automatically been treated as the children’s parent under s42 of the Act but did not wish to be so as the relationship had broken down before X and Y had sought IVF. Due to an error in the completion of forms, X was not identified as a parent of the children and an application to Court was necessary for her to achieve that status. The application was approved by Sir James Munby. Of particular interest to us are his stinging criticisms of not only the original incompetence but the subsequent insensitive response, particularly from the clinic’s solicitors, which he described as “crass”. An offer of £1,000 by way of compensation was “so wide of the mark as to be not merely insulting but almost offensively so.”

This is by no means the last of this series of cases but the depth of feeling of parents denied legal recognition of their status was fully appreciated by Sir James and may serve to assist those denied actual parenthood in other circumstances.

Chris Thorne Partner at Clarke Willmott, is an expert in fertility related medical negligence claims. He was the lawyer behind the leading case of Yearworth v North Bristol NHS Trust and can advise you in any fertility related claim. If you, or anyone you know, wishes to speak to Chris about a claim involving IVF or birth issues, please contact him on 0345 209 1461 (Chris.Thorne@clarkewillmott.com).