Fertility Law Reform in the UK: What Needs to Change?

The government has tasked the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to review and make recommendations for fertility law reform in the UK. The HFEA hopes to reach an outline agreement with the Department for Health and Social Care before the end of 2022 on what needs to change. In doing so, the HFEA has identified three key areas of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 which are in need of reform to take better account of (1) patient protection, (2) scientific developments and (3) consent, data sharing and anonymity. However, there are still many complex issues which require careful thought and debate in terms of further fertility law reform in the UK. A balance needs to be struck which enables us to take greater account of ongoing rapid developments in science, medicine and reproductive technologies and the needs of patients, whilst at the same time does not deliver overly onerous and restrictive fertility law and governance in the UK moving forward.
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Changes to Egg and Sperm Donor Anonymity Law in the UK

The chief executive of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), Peter Thompson, has this week (23 May 2022) announced that the HFEA is considering removing donor anonymity for egg and sperm donors in the UK. Under existing law, registered egg and sperm donors who donate through fertility treatment at UK licensed fertility clinics remain anonymous until the donor-conceived child reaches eighteen under a system known as ‘identity release’ donation. However, this is now under review as part of the HFEA’s current review of UK fertility law and its formulation of recommendations for fertility law reform to be put before government. In doing so, it reflects the growing popularity of direct-to-consumer DNA tests which are increasingly undermining donor anonymity in the UK and worldwide.
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Expert Witness Fertility Law: Claims for IVF, Donor Conception and Surrogacy

Individual fertility is precious and fragile. It can be unexpectedly lost or impaired when problems arise during surgery or fertility treatment, pregnancy and birth as well as following delays in detecting medical issues or misdiagnosis of conditions like cancer. This can give rise to complex legal claims for costs of IVF, donor conception and surrogacy within medical negligence proceedings. Our expert witness fertility law service can provide written reports and expert evidence which identifies and assesses the relevant legal issues in individual cases and quantifies the costs of family building through assisted conception to assist claims for damages. This can help ensure future family building or family expansion and completion.
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Netflix’s “Our Father”: DNA testing, paternity disputes and questions about biological and legal parentage

Netflix’s new 2022 documentary “Our Father” powerfully portrays real-life stories of those who discover through direct-to-consumer DNA testing that their biological father was a well-known fertility doctor and a secret serial sperm donor for over 30 years. The documentary is compellingly told from the perspectives of the donor conceived individuals and their families who learn that their fertility doctor secretly replaced anonymous sperm samples and couples’ own sperm samples with his own. It also shines a light on some of the legal issues and wider implications associated with at-home DNA testing, paternity disputes and emerging concepts of fertility fraud.
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