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Monday, 26 June, 2000, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
'Ban IVF for smokers and drinkers'
Scientist belives IVF should not be available to all
A fertility expert says that prospective mothers who drink and smoke heavily - or even fail to take supplements - should not receive IVF treatment.

He also believes that human cloning should be used for reproduction as well as developing medicines.

Professor Carl Wood delivered a lecture on the controversies surrounding both fertility treatment and cloning to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

His views are likely to inflame those who believe that doctors should not be setting the terms for fertility treatment.

Why should a parent be able to do things which might harm the child?

Professor Carl Wood

Professor Wood, who runs a clinic in Australia, said: "IVF should be deferred if patients are smoking over 15 cigarettes a day, regularly drinking more than three glasses of beer a day, are habitual drug users or have a criminal record of child abuse or violence.

"It should probably be deferred if there is a record of admission to hospital for a serious psychotic disorder."

He added: "Grounds for short-term deferral include no vaccination against German measles and no use of folic acid."

Protect children

All these restrictions, he said, could protect some children from potential harm - both drinking and smoking by the parent during pregnancy can lead to low birthweight babies.

Infection with German measles during pregnancy can lead to brain damage, while taking folic acid prior to conception can offer some protection against congenital neural problems.

And he said that severe clinical depression, or schizophrenia could make the parent less able to cope with the psychological pressures associated with fertility treatment.

He said: "We have got to think of the child. Why should a parent be able to do things which might harm the child?"

At his own clinic, he said he was not allowed by law to refuse anyone for IVF on these grounds, but tried to persuade them to defer treatment in such circumstances.

Many doctors, including some at the forefront of cloning technology, have expressed severe doubts about whether the techniques could ever ethically be used on humans.

Professor Wood said he would have no objections to cloning for reproductive purposes.

Gestating in the womb of a different woman would, he said, mean that the developing "clone" would not turn out to be identical to the original.

Dr Ehab Kelada, a gynaecologist at the London Fertility Clinic, said the situation in Australia was different to th UK, as IVF was more widely available on the national health service.

However, he said: "This is equivalent to saying to people who need coronary artery bypass surgery, 'stop smoking otherwise we will not do it for you'.

"Nobody should smoke because it is bad for their health, but to deny women IVF treatment because they smoke would seem somewhat harsh."

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