The High Court has finally granted parents whose children were born through IVF legal status of being the child’s parents, after an administrative error at the clinics mean that they were not entitled to call their child their own.
Before parents who are either not married or in a civil partnership, embark on the IVF process they must sign consent forms to ensure that they will be entitled to legal status as the child’s parents. In the case before the High Court seven couples had to seek a Court Order granting parentage after their IVF clinic failed to follow the procedure and obtain the necessary consents. The couples were informed of this devastating news by letter from the clinic.
When considering the case, Sir James Munby was critical of the industry’s regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, saying that there is “widespread incompetence across the sector”. Following an audit of the 109 clinics regulated by HFEA across the country, it was revealed that 51 clinics had “anomalies” within their records, which presumably could mean that other parents are without legal rights relating to their children. When such administrative errors are rife, one has to question the sectors ability to administer the highly advanced science behind IVF.
This news adds to the complexities and risks already associated with IVF. Negligence cases often arise out of this treatment which includes the destruction of sperm samples leading to the donor being unable to father a child, negligent fertilisation leading to disabilities for the child and even implanting the wrong embryo which mimics a baby being switched at birth.
Sir James has questioned the adequacy of the HFEA’s regulation of the sector and its powers. It is not known whether this will lead to an enquiry into quality standards in IVF clinics but it will at least caution parents into thoroughly researching their chosen clinic before entering into this very expensive and emotionally charged process.
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 claim ranging from sperm destruction to negligent fertilisation and implanting. If you, or anyone you know, wishes to speak to Chris about a claim involving fertilisation, please contact him on 0345 209 1461 (Chris.Thorne@clarkewillmott.com).