A UK woman who underwent fertility treatment after having her womb removed is calling for a change in the law, to prevent frozen embryos belonging to herself and her husband from being destroyed next week. The couple, who have not managed to find a suitable Surrogacy mother to bear their children since the embryos were created in 2001, found out in December 2005 that embryos intended for treatments involving surrogacy can only be kept in frozen storage for five years. Michelle Hickman and Martin Hymers are now hoping to transfer the embryos to a fertility laboratory abroad.
Ms Hickman, now aged 33, underwent an emergency hysterectomy operation six years ago after the birth of the couple's son Robert. 'I was horrified', she told GMTV news, adding 'we wanted a large family and I wanted to carry our children'. Following the advice of doctors, the couple decided to undergo fertility treatment at the Manchester Fertility Services clinic, and to freeze any resulting embryos while they searched for a surrogate mother to carry them. But under current UK law, five of the resulting embryos must be destroyed by 8 May 2006, followed by another seven embryos next year. Unlike embryos created during treatment for other types of infertility, the couple are not allowed to apply for an extension to the storage time.
The 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act - which governs all fertility treatment and research involving embryos in the UK - is currently under review, so the couple are now hoping for a change in the law that will allow them to keep their embryos. In the meantime, they are trying to move them to storage facilities overseas, in the hope that they can bring them back at some point in the future.
A spokesman for the UK's fertility treatment regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), was unable to comment specifically on the case, but agreed that the current law does appear to discriminate against couples hoping to use embryos in surrogacy arrangements. 'Parliament decided as part of the legislation in 1996 that surrogacy should be excluded as a reason for extending storage periods', he told GMTV, adding 'both the HFEA and fertility professionals have already raised this issue with the Government as one that needs reconsidering in the ongoing review of fertility legislation'.