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The BBC's Fergus Walsh
"If their legal challenge fails they may seek treatment in the US"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 3 October, 2000, 18:06 GMT 19:06 UK
Legal fight over IVF embryos
Helen Blackith and her husband Howard
Helen and Howard Blackith are taking legal action
A woman is going to the High Court in an effort to push back the boundaries of fertility treatment.

She claims current regulations are destroying her chances of having a child.

The rules state that women having IVF can have no more than three embryos put back in their womb because of the risk of multiple pregnancies.

Helen Blackith, 38, has undergone three years of fertility treatment, costing 13,000.

She has been told by her doctor that her only chance of conceiving is to have five embryos implanted into her womb during IVF treatment.

Dr Mohamed Taranissi
Dr Mohamed Taranissi backs the couples' campaign

Helen now plans to take the Human Embryology and Fertilisation Authority to court to get the rules changed

She told the BBC: "It is not just for ourselves, it is for other couples as well.

"It may take a while going through the courts, and it may be that the number of embryos does not increase while we are still trying our IVF treatment.

"But for other couples in the future I think it is very, very important."

The leading fertility expert Mohamed Taranissi, of the Assisted Reproduction Centre, is backing Helen's case - and that of another couple in their forties.

He says the blanket ban on using more than three embryos is denying many older women the chance of a child.

"Every patient is different. You cannot just have one approach to treatment and expect all the patients to fit in - that is medically and professionally unsound."

Multiple pregnancy risk

The three embryo limit is intended to minimise the risk of multiple pregnancies.

The number of triplets being born has increased four-fold as a direct result of IVF treatment.

Dr John Mills
Dr John Mills say some women should accept they will never be mothers

Many are born prematurely, and therefore are at greater risk of having serious health problems.

Some experts believe that rather than relaxing the rules, they should be tightened up so that the maximum number of embryos that can be implanted is reduced from three to two.

Dr John Mills, of the British Fertility Society, said some women had to accept that they would not be able to have children.

He said: "We have to start thinking in terms of helping those women into their forties accept the fact that they might not now have children, rather than going for babies at any cost."

However, Helen and her husband Howard say that if they are denied the chance to have effective treatment in the UK, they may travel to the US, where there is no limit on the number of embryos which can be used in IVF.

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See also:

31 Dec 99 | Health
IVF 'no better than insemination'
30 Sep 00 | Health
Police launch embryo inquiry
12 May 00 | Health
Viagra succeeds after IVF fails
11 Jul 00 | Background Briefings
The future of fertility
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