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BBC's Fergus Walsh
 real 28k

Thursday, 16 December, 1999, 06:34 GMT
Woman battles test-tube ruling

The fertility treatment is available outside the UK

A cancer survivor is going to fight a ruling banning her from trying to get pregnant using eggs she had frozen while undergoing life-saving treatment.

Carolyn Neill, 34, will challenge the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's ruling that her stored eggs cannot be thawed for use.

It says it is not yet convinced that the procedure would result in healthy babies, even though it has been carried out more than 30 times in countries such as Italy and the US.

Current rules allow for eggs to be removed from the ovaries of women before they undergo chemotherapy treatment, which could leave them infertile. But the UK does not permit their unfreezing for fertilisation either in Britain or abroad.

The HFEA, which acts as the government's fertility watchdog, made the decision after being approached by Ms Neill about starting a family with her partner, following her successful treatment for breast cancer.

Carolyn Neill: "I would like to consider using the eggs"
She said on Wednesday that she was taking legal steps along with the London fertility clinic where her nine eggs are stored, to apply for a judicial review to overturn the ruling.

Ms Neill, from Belfast, told the BBC the decision on the use of the eggs should have been left to herself and her doctor, Mohamed Taranissi, director of the Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre.

"Physically I'm getting older and I know that sometime in the near future I would like to consider using the eggs and it will be all down to the government whether I'll be able to do it, and when I'll be able to do it," she said.

"I think it should be down to Dr Taranissi and myself to discuss what we can do, not the government."

A meeting next month will be held between clinic representatives and the HFEA to try to reach an agreement on the treatment being sought by Ms Neill, which is already available in the Far East, America and parts of Europe.

Ruth Deech: "We must value safety"
Dr Taranissi added: "It is very sad to find out that this technique is now being provided successfully in the US and parts of Europe and the Far East but banned in the UK, which presented IVF to the world some 20 years ago."

Failure to reach a satisfactory solution will lead to legal action, according to the clinic.

However the HFEA remained firm in its stance that thawing eggs could led to physically damaged children. Chairman Ruth Deech said: "We all remember the thalidomide episodes some years ago. We must never have something like that again.

"We must value safety above all else and as soon as we have enough independent scientific evidence to convince us that it is reasonably safe to go ahead and use those eggs in treatment, then of course we'll permit it."

At least 50 other women are thought to be in a similar situation to Ms Neill after having eggs stored for fertilisation at a later stage.
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See also:
15 Dec 99 |  Health
Court fight over test-tube ban
23 Oct 98 |  Health
Fertility clinic director defends licence to chill
31 Mar 99 |  Medical notes
IVF: The facts
23 Sep 99 |  Health
Mother wants girl's eggs frozen
23 Aug 99 |  Health
Age limit for NHS fertility treatment
28 Jun 99 |  Health
Older women's pregnancy chances boosted

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