Page last updated at 20:07 GMT, Wednesday, 9 September 2009 21:07 UK

New embryo hopes as rule changes

The change will give concerned women hope, the government says

Women whose frozen embryos were due to be destroyed in the next few weeks have had the threat lifted.

The time limit on storing embryos is due to rise from five years to 10 from October.

But some women faced losing their embryos in the remaining weeks before the change comes in, as they breached the five-year rule.

Ministers have ruled that these "out of time" embryos need not now be destroyed.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said it would immediately contact clinics so they could continue storage of the embryos.

'Legally complex'

Health Minister Gillian Merron said: "The new rules will come into effect on 1 October and I will be seeking to make an order to Parliament to ensure this applies to embryos that are "out of time" on that date.

The Gladwins are encouraging other couples with frozen embryos not to give up hope

"A small number of women will have reached the five-year limit before 1 October and without the action we are taking, would have had their embryos destroyed.

"They will now be able to store them for longer.

"For these women, this is tremendously important as it is all about extending their chance to have a much-wanted child.

"Their circumstances are morally straightforward but legally very complex - we have been urgently seeking ways to help them and I am very pleased today to be able to give them hope by taking this commonsense action."

Professor Lisa Jardine, chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), said: "I am delighted that the government has listened and made this commonsense decision.

Wonderful things do happen
Mel and Rob Gladwin

"This will be an enormous relief to all of those people who faced the heartbreak of seeing their embryos destroyed all because of a matter of timing.

"We will be contacting clinics immediately so that they can inform the patients concerned and make appropriate arrangements for the continued storage of their embryos."

The announcement comes less than 24 hours after a couple from Gloucestershire presented a petition pleading for help to Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Mel Gladwin, originally from Kent, had cervical cancer six years ago and, with her husband Rob, stored her fertilized eggs.

They would have been destroyed for being out of time but for the new ruling.

"We're absolutely ecstatic. It's wonderful news," said Mr Gladwin.

"It's been very difficult at times and a lot of people have said 'you won't get this done' but it's changed and we have," said Mrs Gladwin.

The couple urged others in a similar position to them not to give up hope saying: "Wonderful things do happen."

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