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Last Updated: Monday, 19 May, 2003, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
IVF embryo rules strengthened
The changes could affect many couples across the UK
The rules on when IVF embryos can be destroyed are to be strengthened.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is to change its code of practice to ensure all parties involved in IVF treatment are informed before an embryo is destroyed.

Up until now, men and women have only been informed of plans to allow embryos to thaw or perish if the sperm or eggs used to create the embryos were their own.

The change will mean that all parties will in future be informed, even if the embryos were created using donated eggs or sperm.

Embryos destroyed

It follows the case of Margaret Grant, from Inverness, who lost her only chance of having children when her IVF embryos were destroyed without her knowledge.

The embryos, which had been created using donated eggs, were destroyed after her ex-husband withdrew his consent to keep them in storage.

My hopes and dreams have been shattered beyond repair
Margaret Grant
The rule change means that people in a similar situation to Mrs Grant will, in future, be told of plans to destroy their embryos.

They will not have an automatic right to stop the embryos from being destroyed. However, they will be able to challenge the move in the courts.

Mrs Grant, 43, discovered in 2001 that her embryos had been destroyed when she was involved in an IVF treatment programme.

She was told that five frozen embryos created for the couple's infertility treatment, from donor eggs and her then husband's sperm, had been discarded.

She had presumed they were still in storage at Aberdeen University's Assisted Reproduction Unit.

Mrs Grant, from Inverness, said she was left feeling devastated when she discovered her only chance of having a baby had gone.

'Hopes shattered'

She said she was "delighted" with the ruling. "This is the news I have been waiting for.

"If any woman goes through IVF treatment the change in the code will mean that people will have the right to know the embryos created are to be destroyed, no matter what the stance of her partner or husband, or who created the embryos," she said.

"My hopes and dreams have been shattered beyond repair and I have personally ended up with nothing."

But she added: "This will give me some kind of peace of mind knowing that such serious issues like IVF treatment should always be handled with the sensitivity and care that it deserves."

The rule change means that although women in this situation will be informed, they may have to go through the courts to stop the embryos from destroyed.

The HFEA has written to IVF clinics informing them of the change.

Mrs Grant's local MP David Stewart, who said that the case was a "national scandal", took Mrs Grant's case to Westminster.

Mr Stewart met the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and Westminster Minister for Public Health Hazel Blears.

Mr Stewart said: "Margaret has shown remarkable strength and determination throughout and has always told her story without rancour and with dignity.

"The embryology authority's decision is the right one and I look forward to the amendment to the code later this year.

"If a patient is told then at least they can receive counselling and talk over options.

"I never doubted the need for the code to be changed and I am glad that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has reacted speedily to make an amendment."

31 Mar 99  |  Medical notes
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