What do you think of government proposals to update fertility regulations?
Laws covering fertility treatment and embryo research are to be overhauled for the first time in 15 years, following a public consultation.
Ministers will publish their plans on issues including the screening of embryos and the creation of "designer" babies before consulting medical professionals and the public.
The role of the independent regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), will also be investigated.
What do you think of the government's proposals on fertility treatment and embryo research? Should the law be tightened?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of views received:
Over the past 50 years or so we have been keeping people alive artificially and now creating people who shouldn't naturally live. Modern medicine costs a lot financially, but also aren't we diluting the gene pool and destroying our natural selection? Look at the increase in asthma, allergies, diabetes etc. Having said all this, I am now at the point where I have to consider IVF. I do not agree with it but I want my child, not an adopted one. What do I do? The decision is really difficult.
Emma, Brighton, UK
The sanctity of life at all stages ought to be of paramount importance. Fertility treatment and embryo research should not be allowed on the grounds that from the moment of conception each developing person deserves the utmost respect. If those living outside the womb do not speak out for the rights of the unborn, what chance do they have?
I have in the last week had my one free chance of IVF on the NHS. It has taken us years to get to this point and in between we have paid out a considerable sum for other fertility treatment. I do not choose to be infertile; it is caused by PCOS, a disease which affects one in 10 women in this country. For those people who say that IVF is a lifestyle choice, does this mean that we shouldn't treat someone suffering from lung cancer who smokes? Or someone who is overweight who has a heart attack? In many cases, surely these diseases are caused by lifestyle choices.
Kate, Tunbridge Wells, UK
People should consider alternatives to IVF. There are many children in the world that desperately need parents. Adoption should be considered a more sensible addition to a family - and they can pick the sex. But, for those people that have needs for genetically matched children, so be it. It is more important to improve the quality of life for those born, rather than spend resources adding to the quantity of life.
Shyrie, Philadelphia, USA
The NHS should assist those who are unfortunate enough to be infertile. It's those people that often treasure their children and make the best parents. Many of the negative views printed here are no doubt from those who already have their own children and have suffered no such problems.
In my 40s and with two children from my first marriage, I would love to have the chance to have a child with my present husband. Unfortunately that doesn't look likely as we are too "old" for help under the NHS (though I'm the same age as my mother was when she had me by "normal" means) and cannot afford to go private. Where I personally would draw the line would be where the woman has gone through the menopause and thus could not possibly conceive naturally in any case. I would also not be in favour of gender selection EXCEPT for medical reasons. Why should a couple using IVF be able to select the gender of their child to "balance" their family? That's not an option available to couples able to conceive naturally!
Liz, West Midlands
How can people deny a couple a child they would love and cherish? I'm having fertility treatment at the moment and have been trying for a child for 5 years. It's heartbreaking and so very, very sad what some couples go through. Please don't spoil our dream.
I can sympathise greatly with those who long for children but cannot have them due to problems with infertility. I am only 33 years old, I have no children and am not able to have any due to having had a hysterectomy a few months ago - a result of a gynaecological condition. So, although IVF can't help me, I think it should be available for those who need it. However, I don't agree that people should be able to choose the sex, eye colour, hair colour of their unborn child just for the sake of it.
Fertility treatments and cloning should never be discussed hand-in-hand. They are (and should remain) very separate issues.
Allison Gerrard, Halifax, Canada
For couples that can't have children IVF should be made available. Screening for genetic conditions is also a good thing. The idea of designer sexes is quite scary. Is this another piece of proposed social engineering? In some cultures girls are not considered desirable, would this result in a gender imbalance as already occurs in some countries?
This is not a question about so-called designer babies. So many couples are desperate to have kids, but are unable to afford IVF. If the government can spend millions on sprucing up Stratford for the Olympics, I don't see any reason why the NHS can't help people have kids. It stands to reason. After all this is an investment for the future.
Preeti Gour, Czech Republic
Some of the comments dictating what people should and shouldn't do are really quite disturbing. It is none of my business if an infertile couple opt to use IVF and they will certainly pay for the cost over a lifetime of tax and national insurance. My only hope is that the chance of having a child, who is a genetic match for the parents, does not widen the gap between the number of children waiting for adoption and the number of prospective adoptive parents by too great a margin.
Andrew Woods, Leeds, UK
Having spent four years and thousands of pounds self-funding fertility treatment and tests, we finally have our dream of a child of our own, something that most people take for granted. I think people are confusing having IVF because of infertility problems with having IVF because they fancy having a boy or maybe a girl. I have to say the comment about it being mother nature's way of keeping the population down is unbelievable, it would be interesting to see how many of the people against IVF have children of there own naturally, maybe if the shoe was on the other foot your views would be very different. If you could swap places with someone with infertility would you do it?
What happens when the ability to make a "designer baby" becomes commonplace? Society will expect more and more "perfect" children as time goes on. Things like bad eyesight will diminish, and anyone with "faults" will be looked down upon. We already live in an image-driven society, let's not force our children to as well.
I am currently 11 weeks pregnant with my first child, who was conceived with the help of IVF. Both my husband and I have unexplained infertility, which is very distressing. Neither of us mind what sex our child is, as to have a child at all will be enough. Our IVF was funded through the NHS and although we could afford to pay privately, our GP referred us. Comments such as those made earlier about not being able to afford to raise a child if you cannot afford to pay for treatment are extremely disheartening to hear. I wish the best of luck to anyone who is currently undergoing or waiting for IVF treatment.
JP, Sittingbourne, Kent
As a teacher in a secondary school, I am well aware of the power of peer pressure. It does concern me that if a lesbian couple have fertility treatment for a child, then that child will sadly suffer cruelly with comments from their peers, when it becomes known (and it will) that they are being brought up in a different type of family. Additionally, I am concerned that they will have no male role model in their life. I don't believe that his can be healthy for society.
I went through IVF about 3 years ago and it failed. I now have a gorgeous adopted daughter from China. In Belgium IVF is now refundable up to the age of 43. I think this is right. Birth rates are low and women are having children later in life. This is a good way to encourage (and help) people who want children. Those who go through this are willing to do anything to have a child. I am very happy to have an adopted child and think this should also get the same treatment of government (NHS) help. Many women over 40 I know have had children this way. And they are good mothers! More experience. More financial stability and a very well thought through process to get there!
Elisabeth, Brussels, Belgium
It is suggested that "population control" is no more an argument against IVF than it is an argument for abortion. What is so difficult to understand about the principle of respect for human life? IVF involves creating lives. Abortion involves destroying it. Preventing the first process is incomparable with allowing the latter.
Paul Goddard, London, England
I've met many couples who have had or want to have IVF treatment, and I've yet to hear one of them give me a good enough reason for why they must have IVF rather than adopt or foster children. I find it hard to have sympathy for those who don't understand the difference between having a 'baby' and having a 'child'.
Jennifer, Netherlands, ex-UK
Why are most infertile couples so obsessed with having IVF? There are many children in need of loving families-in need of adoption. I say to infertile couples to stop being so selfish and instead of bringing more children into the world I say that they should help the ones in need that are already here.
IVF should not be available on the NHS. In fact it should not be available at all! Being infertile is nature's way of keeping the population down. There are enough unwanted babies that could be adopted!
Phil, Telscombe Cliffs, UK
Of course IVF should be given to childless couples. If money can be found by the NHS for drug addicts, etc, then it should be there for couples, who, through no fault of their own, cannot have a child without medical intervention. I agree whole heartedly that fertility treatment and embryo research should be looked into again. The only thing I do disagree with is choosing the sex of the child. If a child is wanted that much, the gender of it should not be an issue.
Rebecca, Wakefield. England.
Actually Simon Brown, London - we need less babies, not more. The number of people on this planet has already caused irreparable problems in terms of ecological damage and lack of resources. I would go as far as to discourage fertility treatment and stop child benefit. Please try and see the bigger issue and not just the contributions to your own pension plan!
James Robson, Scotland
I think that infertile women should be able to have children. It's a shame if a woman can't experience motherhood, and we're an ageing population anyway so it's good for the country anyway. However, they should never allow people to choose their child's features in the same way people choose which dog to buy.
I think it is horrible that people would want to choose whether to have a baby boy or girl. Babies come out of love, nothing else. If there is a terrible genetic disease in the family it should be possible, as it is wished upon no one to have a sick or dying child. But there should be a clear difference for designed babies. Imagine, people go in and want to have a baby boy, something went wrong and they have a baby girl. Will the baby still be loved the same or will the parents be disappointed and see it as a mistake!
Anyone who has followed IVF mix-ups will know IVF regulation is in a mess. It is time to ensure that the foremost consideration is the child/embryo that is being created and that if we as a society celebrate children we do not allow destructive or eugenic practices, but really welcome every child.
Sophie Porter, London
It's no wonder a lot of society is against IVF on the NHS when you read reports like this. Why hasn't it been made clear it's not infertile couples that want the so called designer babies? Couples suffering the trauma of infertility (and yes, it is a trauma which no one would understand unless they've been through it) really don't give two hoots whether they have a boy or girl yet it is assumed it is they who want to pick and chose. To opt to have IVF purely to choose the sex or other characteristics when it is not necessary creates bad feeling for the genuine cases for which IVF is the only way to have a child. In my opinion it should be only allowed for medical reasons.
Julia, Bath, England
The law should defiantly be tightened; the joy of having a child should not be turned into a shopping process which will ultimately lead to a huge imbalance between the sexes of children. Humans were naturally designed to produce sexes at random and there is a reason for this. Leave it as it is.
Laura Brown, Woking, UK
I thought hard and long but no conclusion. Reforms might be needed but I rather each case been review individually. It is easy to implement a law. But what good it is when at times the law does not help those who need it?
Christina Spybey, London, UK
The government should butt out. Human fertility and the science of assisted or genetically modified childbirth are entirely the responsibility of the parents. A child has no "right" to the circumstances of its birth - it must take what luck (or science) provides. Since each such child is chosen, and therefore wanted, I think it would be a happier future.
Julian Morrison, Banbury
IVF should try to mimic natural conception as closely as possible, that means parents should not select gender, hair colour or any other factor. Babies, children and people are not commodities, and should not be pre-designed with an end in mind.
Dan, Coalville, UK
I think quite simply that if abortion has been legalised and people can choose to just end a life then why on earth shouldn't people be allowed to have the treatment they need to have the baby they want?
As a woman who desires to be a mother, but having difficulty in having a baby, IVF is the only option that I can think of, after the other failed treatments. I think that everyone woman should have the chance to become a mother, despite their age/ weight/sexuality.
Syeda, Beds, UK
I am infertile due to a condition called PCOS. Being infertile is a very hard and emotional thing to deal with when you and your partner so want children. I am now on the IVF waiting list to be funded by the NHS and I feel that everyone, woman and man who has a medical condition that intervenes with their fertility should be allowed this treatment if they need it.
Christina Macleod, Livingston, Scotland
I understand peoples longing to have a child and it must be awful to be told that you cannot have a child naturally. However, have we forgotten about adoption? There are thousands of children crying out for love. If people are willing to conceive via egg or sperm donation then they are obviously not bothered about having a child that is biologically theirs, so why not give that love to a child that is already here and needs it?
I think that in the cases of parents being able to select their baby in order to prevent it potentially being born with a life long illness is a good idea, and I think cases in which a 'designer' baby is considered in order to help another member of the family with a life threatening illness should be allowed, although cases where it is just 'I want a girl/boy' should be looked at strongly, although it may prevent mental cruelty to a child just because they were born the wrong sex (and I know of times when this has happened). As to those people who are citing 'population control' as a reason for denying IVF, just think. Would you deny treatment to a person with cancer? Would you deny help to life to a baby born prematurely? Would you save the life of a pregnant woman who has pre-eclampsia? All medical intervention, not just for the examples above, prevent population control. And what about abortion, are you anti-abortion? Again, if you are, you are not promoting population control. If you have ever had any sort of medical help, you could have prevented that population control you are citing as a case against IVF being allowed. One final point, I have a friend who has a seven year old daughter, a one in a million chance due to poor fertility. They are being denied the chance of having IVF in order to try and give their daughter a sibling, because they already have a child. Is this really fair?
Leanne, Telford, Shropshire
With more women choosing to have children later, and the known fall in fertility with age, what is being done to encourage women to have children earlier so expensive fertility treatment is not needed? As a 20-year-old woman at university with many professionally minded female friends, I can say that none of us want a child until at least the age of 28. We fear discrimination in the work place, and inequality of opportunities between men and women when it comes to maternity and paternity leave. What can we as a society do to reverse this trend?
Berney, Salisbury, UK
Most of the comments here are about state funding of IVF through the NHS, which is not what this review is about. The real issues are: should the state be deliberately creating single parents, even though we know that is worse for the children involved, and should researchers be able to decide which human embryos will be allowed to live through IVF, and which will be used as guinea pigs in a lab?
As someone involved in running an internet support network for those going through fertility treatment, I do agree the laws need revisiting an updating. The developments create a need for sensible guidelines. Me and my husband have been through fertility investigations and some basic treatment cycles (IUI with donor sperm), but decided instead to try to adopt. Those people who suggest adoption as an easy alternative clearly no nothing about the process. It is lengthy, and (rightfully) intrusive - certainly not a quick fix solution. The children available for adoption have a wealth of experiences before being placed with their adoptive family and everyone involved needs bucket loads of training, preparation and support. The comments of some that there are lots of babies waiting to be adopted in the UK is untrue. We are looking to adopt children, not babies. We made the decision to adopt because it felt right for us - we had very negative experiences of NHS treatment including the cost of travel, time off work, emotional stress and insensitive comments from an inexperienced doctor. On top of this the changes in donor anonymity brought shortages long before the laws took effect. Treatment was not for us, but for thousands of couples in the UK it is the right way, and I certainly believe that for childless couples there should be an NHS entitlement. This is not a "life choice", it is an incredibly painful, endless grief for those who want a family. I feel fortunate to be out of the "system" but to have been denied a chance, just because of financial constraints? Unthinkable.
I think genetic testing for diseases should be carried out on all IVF patients before they embark on their treatment. My husband and I had a successful pregnancy through our first attempt at IVF, but discovered (when our son was 3 months old), that he had a genetic condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). He passed away at 5 months. Having gone through the trauma of IVF itself and then to give birth to a baby only to find out that a genetic condition that could have been detected, was a devastating blow. Parents should be tested for some of the main conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis and SMA to avoid such heart breaking situations.
Priti Peshawaria, Stanmore, Middlesex, England
In the end IVF saves this country money. We NEED more babies here in the UK. Most of those whingeing on about God and designer babies and NHS costs are the same people whingeing on about having to work till they're 75 then retire on a pittance of a state pension. The answer? More babies! Normally conceived babies, IVF babies, any kind of babies - we have an ageing population and if we're not careful those over 75s who insist on having access to the full range of healthcare available to younger people will be seen as a drain on the NHS...
Simon Brown, London, UK
My wife and I thankfully did not need any fertility treatment and that's just as well because the one thing we really wanted, and were blessed with, is children. They are God's gift to life and the most wonderful experience for any married couple to enjoy together. I can well understand the desire for people longing to have children, it's only natural, and if IVF helps then I'm all in favour of it, by any means.
Whilst I agree that IVF should be available for all, the NHS is not a bottomless pit of funding. We sometimes forget that it was set up so those that could afford to pay for treatment did, and subsidised those who cannot afford to pay as much. The current tax system does not provide enough money to cover everything!
Karen, West Yorkshire
Childless couples should be allowed fertility treatment on the NHS. To be infertile and want a child is one of the saddest things. Every day you are confronted with families with children, expecting mothers, gorgeous babies and children, so every day you are hurt anew, it IS heartbreaking and stays with you all of your life - not only no children - no grandchildren to cherish and love.
Cathleen, Geneva, Switzerland
The system needs reform, but some of the ideas up for debate are plain scary. Family balancing? That sounds like a soft version of China's one child policy. Plus any procedure that creates more embryos than are implanted is wrong, especially if screening is performed.
John Ferguson, Ballymena, UK
As we are currently going through IVF treatment, perhaps I may have a word. Having paid thousands of pounds in taxes and National Insurance over the past 20 years, why shouldn't I get some healthcare in return?? My opinion is that the level of service and information provided by the NHS fertility service is very poor. While the nurses and doctors may regard the drugs, examinations and endless delays as daily routine, it certainly is not for the patients and they should understand this. Far more information and explanation is required regarding drugs (what is the purpose, what are side effects??), and the whole process of IVF. We are not dumb cattle, although it seems you treat us that way.
Stephen P, Norwich, UK
Some people are saying that having children is a lifestyle choice and therefore IVF treatment should not be paid for by the NHS. Smoking and poor diet are also lifestyle choices so should the treatment of lung cancer, obesity and heart disease be paid for by the NHS too? Do we need to question these treatments? Every couple deserves to pursue their dream of having a child if they so choose, whether by natural conception or fertility treatment.
These children are not "designer babies" they are life like you and me. Having a baby through IVF/PGD is an extremely hard choice to make even when you know it is the right one. Parents don't choose IVF because they feel like it. It is an invasive and long procedure that takes a toll emotionally and physically. Often it is the safest and only way to have a healthy child that does not (in my case) carry a recessive gene.
Megan Carroll, Vancouver, Canada
An interesting debate. I am now over 40 and have a very good career. I have also had seven failed attempts at IVF. Before you judge me - I married at 26 to a man who I soon discovered wasn't all that I had hoped and I told him I didn't want children - not with him, the relationship was such that we could not have brought up children happily. I won't expand as to why. I spent some years on my own and married again at 32. The relationship is wonderful and we immediately started trying for a family. I was hoping to give up work as soon as I had a family and was in a much junior role at the time. The reason I'm in a very good job is because work has taken my mind off trying to conceive. We are still hoping and trying. We have now gone to a specialist clinic and are very, very lucky to have that opportunity. More consideration needs to be given to those who are not so lucky. Why not adopt? Has anyone out there tried? My friend and wife were approved for adoption over two years ago after many tests, interviews, interviews with family, etc and are still waiting to adopt a child. Interesting to read the rules from the USA - adoption rules seem more simple over there.
We are about to embark on IVF. Our NHS wait is 4 years. We are having IVF because my husband had kidney failure and then kidney transplant. His new kidney will not last forever and on dialysis he will be unable to father a child. We cannot take the chance by waiting 4 years and therefore are paying for our treatment. I am upset that people say we should not be entitled to IVF on NHS. We are having this treatment because my husband is ill. Are they saying my husband should have paid for his transplant? Being unable to have a child causes stress and depression which is then treated by the NHS. Where do you draw the line? We either pay for our medical treatment or we don't there should be no middle ground or someone deciding who is entitled to what. There should also be more funding available for treatment to cut waiting lists. I would like to add that those who say they sympathize have no understanding of what infertility is like and how it destroys your life. There is no proof that IVF children are any different from those conceived naturally. There is only a tiny percentage of couple having IVF will have so-called designer baby and that will only be allowed for medical reasons.
Sharon, near Edinburgh
I cannot understand why people think those who cannot afford private fertility treatment cannot afford to bring up a child. Look how many of those on benefits have 3, 4 or 5 children and yet no one bats an eyelid. Fertility treatment is very stressful and I am so grateful to the NHS for allowing me and my husband to have fertility treatment. My husband is sterile and we were able to conceive our first child on the NHS using a sperm donor. Another thing I would urge the government not to do is to force parents to tell their child they are "donor" children. Please leave the parents with some choice in this matter as it is a very personal issue. I also feel donors should be allowed to remain anonymous.
Sarah Baker, Brighton, England
My husband has had treatment for cancer, because of this we used our savings whilst he was ill. We cannot afford private treatment now and the NHS won't fund us. We need IVF because we only have frozen sperm and I don't feel it is fair for us to be penalised for my husband having an illness that was not his fault.
Julie D, Bath, England
I wish people would be more sympathetic to couples wanting children. Every negative response I've read here was probably posted by single people with no desire for children or couples who have got children. Me and my husband have been trying for a baby for 8 years we went through IVF 2 years ago on the NHS which failed, we were only allowed 1 try on the NHS and as many people who have had IVF know, IVF very rarely works on the first try. No we can't afford to go private but that doesn't mean that if I was lucky enough to have a child it would be deprived of anything. Me and my husband have both worked all our lives and paid our NI and income tax so why shouldn't we be given a chance to create a life using some of the funds that we have contributed to!
Having IVF does not mean having a designer baby, I think the baby is more longed for by a couple, when they decide to put their lives through the pressure of IVF, I do think it should be available on NHS, but with certain conditions, like myself my husband and I have been dealing with infertility for six years, I am a sufferer of endometriosis, which is a medical condition, and the reason for me not being able to get pregnant. Should it be that a perfectly healthy woman gets a free go of IVF, and I don't? Even though getting pregnant could help my condition, and maybe help me live a normal live, my husband and I are willing to pay for a go at IVF, and are also currently looking into adoption, but all I ask is please don't judge people who are longing for children, it is heartbreaking.
The age limit for IVF on the NHS is 25 to 35 which needs to be changed as adults are marrying later and thus starting families later meaning a higher chance of infertility. Waiting time to investigate my fertility has taken 10 months on top of 2 and a half years trying naturally and I have just found out I am now too old at 39 to be treated on the NHS. More information needs to be given to older couples who find it necessary to investigate their fertility so that if they have to pay (like I will have due to age discrimination) they can choose to go private and save themselves up to a year in waiting time. As an older, responsible adult in a stable marriage, my choice to wait to have a child under responsible circumstances means that my chances of becoming a mother will be a privilege rather than a right that I will have to pay for.
Tina Willcox, Sidcup, UK
In today's scientifically advanced world, one has to be so cautious that one is not taking the place of God. Nature maintains a delicate balance. If we tip that balance through science, what will she do to restore it? We have overpopulation presently; due to Aids, antibiotic immune disease, famine, and a host of other new ills, this problem shall be corrected. If we attempt to perfect children before they are born, what step will nature take to keep the population balanced?
Jacqueline Smith, Richmond, Virginia, USA
Infertile couples just can't win, can they? If they don't have children society seems to assume they don't like children. If they have IVF on the NHS then that is a burden on the taxpayer. If they pay for IVF then they are accused of messing with nature and creating designer babies. If they decide to adopt they face years of meetings and awaiting placement with a child - unless they go abroad. I have endometriosis which is a painful condition in itself. I was lucky in that I fell pregnant just short of more intrusive fertility treatment. My husband and I had saved hard to afford IVF but it would have wiped us out. It is not a case of if you can't afford IVF you can't afford a child. How many 'natural' parents out there paid £10k to have their child? Would they have kids if it was a prerequisite to have that much money to start with? Tighter control on 'designer babies' yes, more understanding from those who don't really understand the whole issue - definitely required.
Firstly, I sympathise with those who want children but, for whatever reason, cannot have them. But, and it's a big 'but', I cannot accept that having children is an absolute right, for responsibilities go hand-in-hand with rights and we have a responsibility to our species to make sure our next generations are as healthy as we can make them. Amongst other things, that means accepting when nature prevents certain couples from conceiving naturally and not passing on the problem to another generation: infertility may well hurt individuals, but artificial fertility hurts the human species.
Owen, Sunderland, England
We were lucky to get IUI fertility treatment from our NHS trust, which provided us with our precious and longed for child. At the end of the treatment, we sent the trust a charitable donation to be used in the fertility department to aid the continuation of their wonderful work. So fertility treatment is not funded entirely by the taxpayer, as some people would have us believe. How many people drop even a tenner in a collection tin when they leave hospital?
No one should have IVF on the NHS. Simply put, those who cannot afford the treatment privately are unlikely to be able to afford to give their child a good life.
Harvey, London, UK
I am utterly appalled at some of the comments made on here! How dare anyone say it's not our right as humans to have children! I am currently undergoing treatment for infertility, and it's not a pleasant experience for me or my husband. I understand there are varying degrees of infertility, and luckily I am only on the first rung of the ladder. If I happen to have to move onto IVF, I will do. We pay for a National Health Service, that service covers all health care. I think those who have commented negatively about IVF should understand the pain infertile couples have to go through. Everyone has a choice whether to have a family or not. Why should infertile couples be punished for wanting children??
Why do people think they should "clone" themselves when there are so many children looking for love? The world is overpopulated (the cause of most of our problems) already. Let's stop this nonsense.
Luise Rechen, Baltimore, MD, USA
Overpopulated? How? I see no evidence to support this assertion. We are not suffering, for example, famine. In fact, in key age ranges we are under-populated. The preponderance of older people and the falling birth rate mean that there will be no one to pay for the state pensions of those now in their 30s and 40s. The country needs more, not fewer, kids and anything that helps would-be parents conceive gets my vote; my retirement depends on it!
Paul Kenton, Aberystwyth, UK
Many people seem to be only considering the immediate results of designer babies, but what about the long-term results. Any modification to the genetic code will be passed onto the descendants of designer babies. Now what happens if the modifications are flawed in some way, after all no technology is perfect and mistakes are bound to happen? This could mean that several generations could be affected by mistakes made today. I don't believe that we are ready in terms of technology or social structure to deal with designer babies and that for now we should continue to discuss it, but leave genetics firmly in the hands of nature.
Chris, Sheffield, UK
I think if adoption of babies was made easier then maybe more people would take this route. I stand a high chance of not being able to have children and my partner and I are seriously considering adoption. There are so many orphaned babies in countries such as Russia - it would be good if more people were interested in helping them before taking the IVF route.
Sadly, this society believes they have a right to anything they want. Possessions - at whatever risk of heavy debt, and the 'right' to have a child. No one has a right to have a child. Some people are infertile and this fact should be accepted. IVF has become common place, but it allows the creation and destruction of life at will. IVF has become the thin end of the wedge, opening the door to terrible things. How dare we presume to create and manipulate life to our own purpose??
Stephanie Rogers-Hinks, Rugeley, UK
I bet all the people who say having children is not a right have got at least one child and have no idea what it is like to be told you are infertile and the hurt and pain it can cause. I am one of the lucky ones. For 15 years I was told I would never be able to have children. I had tried all sorts of fertility treatment but none worked. My marriage broke down under the strain. I had a new partner and was able to fall pregnant naturally - much to the amazement of all the doctors who had ever treated me. My son is now 7 and I cannot imagine life without him. Please don't criticise people whose only wish is to have a child. At the end of the day, it is the next generation who will look after all of us when we are older.
I despair with some of the comments I have read here. The lousy health service we have to put up with here is precisely the reason why I am spending my £5000 going to Spain in September for my fertility treatment.
Jennifer, Cambridge, UK
If you refuse to fund IVF on the NHS on the grounds that it is taking funding from healing the sick, how can you agree to fund treatment for people who are suffering from heart disease or cancer brought about by their own smoking, drinking or overeating? I did not choose to have fertility problems, and my husband and I spent over £30,000 in our traumatic and heartbreaking quest to have children. If anyone out there thinks that that is a selfish act then I pity their narrow mindedness and lack of compassion.
Fran Clarke, Cardiff, UK
We've seen what happens when people choose their baby's sex, albeit in a somewhat different manner, in China. What is the ratio of girls versus boys there now? 1:4? 1:5? What's wrong with trusting nature to give you a child to love, as we have done for the last three million years? For medical reasons, 'designer babies' are at least worth debating, though I'd rather hear all sides of the argument first. As for cosmetic choices, such as eye colour, hair etc? No, no, no!
Baz, Luton, UK
To those who question the right of a person to bear children, do they feel the same way about the right to have social contact, to the right to practice a religion or the right to choose your lifestyle? None of the above is essential to exist, yet we demand them to improve quality of life beyond the physical presence. But none of the above can be as important as projecting ourselves into the next generation: it is why we are men and women and all creations do it. To suggest that I should let another person continue the human species, if I cannot have children myself, is like saying that I should let that person live my life for me.
Robert Di Bartolo, London UK
Is this not an excellent opportunity to overhaul adoption processes with the view of encouraging more adoptions? There are already so many unwanted children in the world that could be given a chance at having a family.
You don't have to be religious to see that there are lines to be drawn in terms of ethics. In my view it is simply wrong for parents to choose the sex of their baby. Creating a life with the primary purpose of saving another is also immoral. Being a parent is a gift and not a right.
Griff, Cardiff, Wales
Terms like "designer babies", don't help this debate. Most fertility treatment involves assisting natural conception, and the fact is, Britain has a serious fertility problem that will leave us with a skewed population with far too many older people being supported by far too few young people unless we act now. It is in all of our interests to get this right.
Tim Watkins, Cardiff
Infertility is as legitimate a disease as any other, and those suffering from it ought to be extended the same compassion and assistance as those who inflict their ill health upon themselves though smoking, poor diet and so on. That said, I don't think assisted reproductive techniques should be extended to any form of genetic selection or manipulation.
Yes it all needs overhauling, but we need to be cautious about such an emotive subject. To all those saying they have a right to have babies, we all have basic rights to fulfil. Having a family by whatever means is a grotesque violation of natural population control.
Much (though not all) infertility is self-inflicted due to avoidance of pregnancy when a woman is most fertile. Abortions, STDs and delaying pregnancy into late 30s and 40s, all contribute to infertility. Individual choice is being taken much too far when fertility treatment is made available for those who exercised choices not to have children until too late and for those who want children without a sexual partner. This treats children as commodities solely to serve the needs of the parent(s).
To Jim in Hampshire: I married my husband at 25 years old, and immediately started trying for a child. I have never had an STD, never had an abortion, and did not delay until my late 30s trying to conceive. 7 years on and we find our problem is due to abdominal surgery I had as a young infant. I had to pay for my treatment privately. Do you still think infertility is self-inflicted? Should I sue the NHS for malpractice so that I can pay for my treatment? Why is it not ok to spend 3000 pounds on fertility treatment, but it is ok to spend 250,000 pounds on a heart operation for a smoker?
I am absolutely outraged at the various comments made by people against IVF and extremely distressed by what I am reading. I am currently embarking on my 2nd IVF cycle. Infertility hurts.
Cathy, Manchester, England
No-one regulates fertile people who want to have children, however unsuitable. Why should people who are already having trouble conceiving be discriminated against?
Why do people want to deny couples from having children? For my husband and I, a child would complete our family and be a manifestation of our commitment to each other. There is no 'right' to have children. But for those who desperately want children for whatever reason, surely if the technology is available they should be given as much help as possible.
Just as people in the late 18th century were terrified of the ethics of Jenner's smallpox vaccine, so people now throw their hands up in horror at modern scientific progress. Just as we would never refuse a vaccine now, so in a few years time we'll treat advanced fertility treatment and embryo research as just routine procedures, with all the benefits to mankind they confer.
Digby Knight, Henley-on-Thames, UK
IVF should not be made available on the NHS, in the same way that cosmetic surgery isn't. Having babies is not a medical emergency it is a lifestyle choice and as such this treatment should not place any burden whatsoever on the tax payer.
Steve, Liverpool, England
It seems so many people are against sex selection of children, that it is unlikely to alter the ratio of males to females. So I don't think it would be a problem for it to be allowed here.
Anna, Cambridge, UK
I think we should remember the following: "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should!" IVF and fertility treatments don't work for everyone, and some inscrutable private clinics will keep encouraging people to try at any costs. Personally, I believe that if you really want a child it should be, must be, for that child's own sake. What if you have a designer baby to save another child and the treatment doesn't work. How would you feel about the new baby then?
Darla Yashera, Brighton, East Sussex
To those who are against embryo research... perhaps you would like to visit my 4 month old baby. He has a very rare genetic condition called herlitz junctional eb, for which there is no cure. He has painful blistering on his skin both internally and externally. If you were to witness his pain, and the suffering that we as his parents go through every day, perhaps you would change your views. His only hope is the sort of research that you seem to be against. A visit to your local children's hospice might change your views on the subject.
Sandra Robinson, Flitwick
I have had fertility treatment but I had to go to Spain to get it. As a result I am now pregnant with twins. The HFEA's approach to some issues is out of touch with most other countries in the developed world including the US and most of Europe. Because of the ridiculous change to the UK law regarding egg donation, whereby anonymous donation will no longer be possible, there is now a real shortage of egg donors in this country because who wants some stranger turning up on their doorstep years later claiming to be their offspring?
The review of the law is to be welcomed but only if it helps infertile couples rather than putting up even more barriers. The composition of the HFEA should be reviewed as well because it's hard to see how its current members can have the first idea what it is like to be infertile. In their recent 'consultation' I offered to share my experiences of infertility treatment both in the UK and abroad and the HFEA were not interested in learning anything about standards and practices outside the UK. Tunnel vision I think.
I do not think it can be right that when we are restricting access to cancer drugs on the grounds of expense on the one hand, on the other we are spending NHS money on infertility treatment. Surely the priority should be to look after those who are already here?
MP Hoskins, St Albans, UK
Typically, many of the negative comments here come from people who have no experience with IVF. Thank God the public does not decide the outcome. For those who go through IVF, just getting pregnant is a major milestone, and the choice of sex is a very minor consideration (where disease is not involved). For those that say it's wrong, period, to undergo IVF: If you've got a leaky heart valve, and are in serious danger of dying, would you forego a medical operation because 'it's not ethical to tamper with God's work'? If a woman has mechanical or hormonal problems in her body that decrease chances of fertility, should she not be offered the equivalent treatment to help her along? IVF is a lifesaver for childless couples which by the way is considerably cheaper than adoption.
Andrew Henry, Sweden
No one has the right to a child. Infertility is very distressing as I know from personal experience and can feel very unfair, but life is horribly unfair to many people in umpteen different ways as a quick perusal of the newspapers will amply demonstrate.
Jane, Wales, UK
My cousin has never been able to carry a baby beyond 3 months, yet she has never gone for IVF despite her desire - she just accepted it as part of nature. My only child was born with dyslexia yet I would NEVER have had any form of screening has it been available. I would have been robbed of an intelligent, bubbly, charismatic child. People need to accept their lot. Nature tries to keep the balance, but we humans seem to think we know better.
I don't believe that there should be any way IVF is made more accessible to childless couples, in fact access needs to be reduced. I was lucky enough to conceive naturally despite having fertility problems, if this hadn't happened I would have turned to adoption or fostering if necessary. This new selfish need to have a child which is 'genetically' ours has only arisen since the opportunity came about. I don't think it's any coincidence that infertility levels are rising 25 to 30 years on from when IVF was first made available.
Jennifer, Netherlands, ex-UK
Infertile would-be parents, of normal child-bearing age, should get the help they need free - maybe 2-3 cycles of IVF. People who have made 'career choices' to avoid pregnancy until they have earned vast amounts of money and are now past the normal age of fertility should be made to factor that into the 'career choices' they made and pay for the treatment themselves.
Roger Steer, Bristol UK
In times when it is debated as to whether or not he stretched resources of the NHS should be used to fund Alzheimer's medication which relieves suffering it is unpardonable to expect the NHS to provide IVF treatment. IVF may help to create fulfilment. That, however, is not the role of the NHS.
Mr Wood, Edinburgh
Why on earth are any expensive fertility treatments (IVF at the top of the list) available on the NHS to anyone when there are many, many children needing adoption? As for what can be done privately? I suggest people turn back to their science fiction novels, there are many warnings in there of what could happen if we are not careful.
As someone who is celebrating her pregnancy after IVF, I would really like to see decisions like this made by the people that it really affects. I don't mean to appear uncharitable, but infertility is something that can only truly be understood by those that have experienced its agony. The HFEA does at times seem heavy handed, but I think there is a need for a regulator of some kind. Without monitoring, those seeking IVF may be put at risk from unscrupulous clinics etc - and we could see multiple births (over and above twins) become the norm (which is actually very risky for the babies).
Sarah, London, UK
I do not think that IVF should be available on the NHS at all. With the country already being overpopulated, why on earth do we want to take money from an already burdened NHS to increase the population even more? Madness!
Why do people believe they have a right to have children? Falling fertility rates are nature's way of telling us we are over-populated. If we circumvent this warning then nature will find other, less pleasant, ways of reducing our numbers. The selfish few are yet again ruining it for everyone.
No matter the kinds of reform to take place, every effort should be geared towards making access to sustainable fertility treatment free, especially for couples who have never had any children.
Ayo Onatola, Luton, UK
A good outcome doesn't always justify the means used. We need laws which control our manipulation of human life within ethical boundaries. Too often we hear of rights for just about everything, even the right to 'experience parenthood'. There is no such right as far as I am concerned. Our efforts to satisfy people's desires should not be confused with rights and medicine has many things to focus on before working on satisfying desires.
John Deighan, Glasgow, Scotland
Yes we can cure some genetic disorders by the 'designer baby' method, but surely all this does is ensure that the faulty gene gets into the next generation. By continuing down this road we run the risk of essentially keeping all defective genes in the gene pool thus lowering the fitness of the human race as a whole. This is the first step from the path of natural selection 'survival of the fittest' that has got us to this pinnacle of life on Earth, however it is our incessant need to control it that could well be responsible for wiping us out.
Ed Du-Prat, Basingstoke
Ed Du-Prat, Basingstoke- have you ever had a vaccination to protect against disease or taken an antibiotic to fight off a dangerous infection? If you have you've no right to preach about "survival of the fittest". If you believed your own words you'd have relied on the quality of your immune system to let you survive and pass on your genes. Survival of the fittest stopped applying to humans when the ancient Greeks first laid down the principles of medicine.
I am fortunate enough to have conceive two health children naturally but I know that had that not been the case, I could not have been happy and fulfilled without them. I think we should pull out all the stops to help people with fertility problems in this country. Reproduction is surely the meaning of life and for those who are struggling to conceive can become all consuming. They need help and support without the added burden of how to pay for it.
Alison Sass, Wirral
Two words - population control! I think that treating infertility can be something of a selfish act, and those seeking it should learn to accept their predicament. Just as being gay means you can't be straight. People should not be made to feel like they are freak just because they are infertile, women need to be addressing this, and not seeking fertility treatment.
Chris Holdgate, Norwich, Norfolk, UK
I wonder how Chris Holdgate (writer in this thread) would feel if he were to fall and shatter his leg and was denied medical assistance on the basis he should "accept his predicament". Most infertility can be explained and is usually as a result of an infection (not necessarily sexually transmitted) or a defect that surgery cannot adequately cure. My wife and I are undergoing fertility treatment right now and we are lucky enough to live in a time when medical science gives us the opportunity to effectively overcome the damage done by a previous illness. There's nothing selfish about that.
Steve, London, UK
How I agree with Chris Holdgate! This country is already crowded enough and there are so many babies and children needing adoption. If people have a loving home and sufficient finances then adopt. Stop being obsessed with biological reproduction
Sunil Patel, London, UK
I think it's about time; we need to move forward with medical advances. I also agree with Dan from Scotland that the review also needs to include the discrepancies within the postcode lottery on who receives free IVF treatment and how many tries. We I have spent over £8000 on our first cycle of IVF (couldn't get it on the NHS) luckily it's worked but I have friends in London on their second try and both have been free. It's that old postcode lottery once again.
Julie Thomas, Ilminster, Somerset
The principle of infertility and reproductive medicine and science is, surely, to help people to have the experience of parenthood. The science may give the ability to choose the sex of a child but isn't the wondering part of the fun and experience of becoming a parent? There are exceptional circumstances that have a legitimate case such as sex related hereditary disease and in these cases, common sense should prevail.
Brian, London, UK
It is sad when couples cannot have children, but surely sadder when the living are dying. Therefore, ethically, is it right for the NHS to fund repeat IVF which might just lead unrealistic expectations and disappointment? If people cannot afford their own IVF can they afford to raise children?
Catherine Moss, Bedfordshire
Infertility is an increasing problem and more provision should be made to help the situation. However, embryo selection should only be allowed for specific medical reasons and not through personal preference.
Dominic Callaghan, Coatbridge
This sounds like another round of what was considered in the Warnock report; and I feel, that before any rash decisions are made, it might not be a bad idea to dig it out, dust it off, and give it a careful read through.
It seems that the bie biggest 'chestnut' will be balancing some people's religious and ethical sensibilities with the very real possibilities offered by medical advances to produce stronger, healthier human beings.
John Mathewson, Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Parents choosing the sex of their child will have a negative effect on the natural balance and ratio of male and female humans in the world. This might take a long time to become evident but this issue deserves serious consideration right now. What happens if the majority of people want a 'little boy'?
Simon Luckley, Newcastle England
Genetic technologies are an incredible branch of science and the possibilities afforded by them to crack down on genetic diseases are wonderful. However, this technology should not be abused. In no way should parents be allowed to choose the sex, hair colour, eye colour or any other cosmetic physical attribute. Aside from the highly dubious ethics, the health services are under enough strain without this kind of waste of time and money. Additionally, IVF should be severely restricted and the adoption laws radically overhauled to encourage this option for childless couples. There are plenty of unwanted babies out there without creating more in the laboratory.
It is not necessarily a question of stricter regulations. It's about aligning the regulations to the choices and decisions made available by today's and tomorrow's advances in fertility treatment. The debate that will take place is therefore hugely important both for the fertility industry itself and for individuals facing difficult choices. If the debate is public, people can draw their own informed conclusions. As I did when I went through IVF treatment.
Ann W A , Hull, UK
To be disparaging about choosing the sex of a child is not as straight forward as it might seem. What about families affected by x-linked disorders such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy which affects only boys? The time is right for an overhaul of regulations but I fear that all too often the public sees sensationalist headlines and does not consider the bigger picture.
It is time to embrace new technology, so called 'designer babies' can save lives, if it was your own life surely you would want to be saved. Stricter laws are not necessarily beneficial.
As well as stricter regulations on testing, we need to have a commitment from ministers in the whole of the UK that couples seeking treatment for infertility will get more than one course of IVF. Allowing for more treatment available on the NHS could mean less dependence on alternatives that have questionable ethics, but nonetheless are attractive to childless couples.
Stricter regulations are required. Life is important not just for individuals but as a society as a whole, small decisions which affect individuals can affect society and how we view life. Life is now a commodity not only to be bought and sold but to be created in an image we want which suits us best. These ethical questions can be far reaching and should not be left to scientists who study test tubes.
Gareth Webb, Greater Manchester
I completely agree we should try and cure any genetic disorders that we're aware of and any other problems of this nature but we shouldn't be able to choose what sex child we would like it's just not right. Soon it will be like picking a child off a supermarket shelf.
Ian Watts, Croydon