Guidance on The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority

The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) who regulate assisted reproduction in the UK, have recently published their annual report which highlights adverse incidents within fertility clinics.

In the UK, where a woman receives fertility treatment at a licenced fertility clinic, the partner of that woman (husband/civil partner/partner) must give appropriate consent to the treatment taking place, in order for them to be legally recognised as the parent of any resulting child(ren).

There have been instances where some clinics have not complied with the legislation in obtaining parental consents. In some cases, this has resulted in lengthy court battles regarding parenthood. Problems first came to light in May 2013 following the case of E & F (Assisted Reproduction: Parent) [2013] EWCH 1418 (Fam), where the same-sex partner of a woman who gave birth, as a result, assisted reproduction was declared not to be the legal parent of the children born to her partner because the consent procedure had not been appropriately followed.

The HFEA is currently aware of 23 cases at various clinics where proper consent procedures have not been followed. This was following an audit of all licenced clinics earlier this year.

The audit highlighted the most common errors as follows:-

  • Absent consent forms;
  • Consent forms completed after treatment rather than before treatment;
  • Consent forms completed by the wrong person;
  • The use of in house consent forms rather than the HFEA consent forms.

Jane Tenquist, Partner and Head of Family Law at Myerson has been involved in a high profile case involving multiple conjoined applications to the High Court, concerning the adequacy of parental consents. She comments “The HFEA are acting appropriately and are taking measures to help improve practice within the clinics and hopefully the most recent report will remind clinics to take detailed care when obtaining consents to treatment”.

If you have any queries regarding the issues raised within this blog or assisted reproduction generally, please contact our Family Law department on 0161 914 4000 or via email.