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Monday, 22 January, 2001, 18:52 GMT
Doctor defends IVF for 56-year-old
The director of the centre where a woman of 56 became pregnant with twins through fertility treatment has said the important thing is that the baby is loved, not the parent's age.
Professor Ian Craft, head of the London Gynaecological and Fertility Centre, refused to discuss the case of Lynne Bezant, but told BBC News Online there was nothing wrong with women in their 50s receiving treatment.
Professor Craft told BBC News Online: "This is nothing new - babies are born naturally to women in their 50s."
He said the clinic assessed the health and attitides of the few couples who approached them when they were over 50.
But he said the welfare of the children was the most important thing.
He said: "Provided children are loved, that's the key to it."
But Sam Abdallah, director of the Lister Fertility Clinic said there were problems ahead.
"The wider the age difference with the child the more the chances of the child looking after his parents, or her parents, than would be the case - and therefore I think this is not in the best interests of that child."
Clare Brown, Executive Director of CHILD, the national infertility support network, and President of the National Infertility Awareness Campaign, said: "We do urge clinics and prospective patients to consider the welfare of the child extremely carefully and would recommend patients seek independent counselling before embarking on treatment".
A spokesman for LIFE, the pro-life charity, said it was against IVF treatment, but if it was to be carried out, there should be an age limit to try to ensure parents were young enough to care for children as they matured.
"We are opposed to IVF in principal and in practice because it creates situations like this, which we regard as inappropriate."
The Mirror newspaper reported on Monday that the Bezants, from Oxfordshire, had had the in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment.
"Then we read things about women in their 50s who had had children and thought that might be a nice way to do it.
"I know people may criticise us, but we've thought about this carefully for years."
The couple's three children, Jenny, 32, Andrew, 30, and Chris, 26, were said to be delighted about the pregnancy.
They decided to go ahead with the treatment at the Harley Street clinic after suffering two miscarriages and the birth of stillborn twins.
The clinic is the only one in Britain which offered the treatment for women over the age of 51, it was reported.
A spokesman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) said the HFEA Act of 1990 did not exclude any category of women from receiving fertility treatment.
"If we set an age limit of say 55, we would be saying that all women of 54 were medically suitable to have children, and that's clearly not the case.
"One 52 or 53-year-old will be very different to another, as one 35-year-old is different to another."
Eggs from a donor woman were implanted into Mrs Bezant's womb and a blood test three weeks later showed she was pregnant.
Mr Peter Bowen-Simpkins, of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: "When making decisions as to the suitability of a woman for IVF treatment a doctor's primary concern must be for the welfare of the child.
"Doctors also have to weigh up the risks to a woman's health of pregnancy late in life. And decisions like these can only be made on a case by case basis."
The oldest woman to give birth in Britain was Elizabeth Buttle, 60, in 1997.