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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 May 2006, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
Doctor defends IVF for woman, 62
John Farrant and Patricia Rashbrook

A controversial fertility doctor has defended his decision to give IVF to a 62-year-old woman who is set to become Britain's oldest mother.

Severino Antinori says he only treated psychiatrist Patricia Rashbrook, of East Sussex, in an unnamed European country after strict medical checks.

Dr Rashbrook, who is seven months pregnant with her fourth child, said she was delighted with the pregnancy.

Dr Antinori said age 62 or 63 was the upper limit for IVF in healthy women.

We are very happy to have given life to an already much-loved baby
Farrants' statement

He said he would only consider couples with at least 20 years' life expectancy left for fertility treatment, but argued that older people made better parents.

He said Patricia and her husband John Farrant had come to him at his clinic in Rome, where he specialises in treating older women, three years ago and informed him about their wish to have a baby.

"When the couple love each other they naturally want to have a baby.

"Age isn't important in this decision - what's important is the physical condition of the mother."

'Controversial aspects'

He implanted one fertilised donor egg in Dr Rashbrook's womb.

The couple said a great deal of thought had been given to how best to provide and plan for the child's present and future well-being.

"We are very happy to have given life to an already much-loved baby, and our wish now is to give him the peace and security he needs."

They insisted the child's welfare was their top priority and asked for their privacy to be respected.

It's pretty clear that she would have needed donor eggs because of her age
Dr Allan Pacey
Secretary of the British Fertility Society

Dr Antinori first made headlines in 1994 by helping a post-menopausal 63-year-old woman become pregnant with donor eggs and hormones.

And he has said he wanted to be the first doctor to produce a cloned human baby.

There is no age limit for fertility treatment set down in UK law, and whether a particular person is treated is left to the clinical judgment of doctors.

But a spokesman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said clinics must take into account the welfare of the child, including the health, age and ability to provide for the needs of the child or children.

Health risks?

Most British fertility experts hold back from treating women aged over 45 because of these issues.

But secretary to the British Fertility Society and senior lecturer at Sheffield University, Dr Allan Pacey, said that older women are able to get pregnant fairly easily using IVF but she would have needed donor eggs because of her age.

Nature puts a stop to fertility and prevents fertility for a reason.
Ryan, Rome, Italy

"She would have needed hormonal treatment to get her body to respond in the right way. As long as there's nothing wrong with the womb it should be OK.

"However, there are some health risks associated with older women getting pregnant, they are more likely to get high blood pressure, diabetes, develop problems with the placenta and then need a Caesarean section."


The reports of Dr Rashbrook's pregnancy have sparked an outcry from pro-life groups.

Josephine Quintavalle, from Comment on Reproductive Ethics (Core), accused Dr Rashbrook of selfishness and said it would be extremely difficult for a child to have a mother who is as old as a grandmother.

Dr Rashbrook is not the first woman in her 60s to become a new mother.

Liz Buttle, from Wales, was 60 years old when she gave birth to a son, Joseph, in 1997.

The oldest woman in the world to give birth is thought to be Adriana Iliescu, from Romania, who had a daughter called Eliza Maria in January last year at the age of 66.

Profile: Dr Severino Antinori
07 Aug 01 |  Science/Nature
Mother, 53, has baby for daughter
01 Oct 05 |  West Midlands

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