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HFEA will not appeal frozen sperm ruling

17 March 2014

By Nishat Hyder

Appeared in BioNews 746

Beth Warren's legal battle to keep her late husband's frozen sperm has finally ended following the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's (HFEA) announcement that it will not appeal the High Court ruling in Mrs Warren's favour (reported in BioNews 745).

Prior to commencing treatment for cancer, Mrs Warren and Warren Brewer decided to store Mr Brewer's sperm for future fertility purposes. Mr Brewer died in February 2012. The regulations on storing sperm state that the donor's consent must be regularly renewed to continue storage. Although he had made repeated and clear indications that his wife be able to use his sperm in the event of his death, Mr Brewer had only provided the necessary written consent to store his sperm until April 2015.

Mrs Warren, 28, sought a court order for her late husband's sperm to remain in storage after April 2015, allowing her more time to consider and plan conceiving her late husband's child. Last week, Mrs Justice Hogg decided in her favour. 'The evidence indicates that both Mr Brewer and his wife were in agreement. He wanted her to have the opportunity to have his child, if she wanted, after his death', she held. Accordingly, she ruled that it was 'right and proper, and proportionate' to store the sperm until at least April 2023.

Despite the High Court's decision, the prospect of an appeal by the HFEA to the Court of Appeal had remained until the fertility regulator announced on 13 March that it had decided not to do so. 'After carefully considering not just the legal issues, but also the moral ones, we have come to the conclusion that an appeal is not the right approach', it said.

Explaining its decision, the HFEA's interim chair, Sally Cheshire, said: 'We know that the extra few days of uncertainty have been stressful for Mrs Warren, but we have tried to minimise that stress by making a decision as quickly as possible.

'Seeking leave to appeal may have appeared unsympathetic to Mrs Warren's very regrettable situation, but we owed it to future patients to think carefully about the implications of a complex legal judgment.

'We didn't want Mrs Warren's deserving and highly unusual case to pave the way for other cases where the wishes of the deceased patient are much less clear.

'Fortunately, we think we can guard against any such cases without having to appeal'.

This case has cast a spotlight on the complexities surrounding current requirements of (continuing) consent for gamete storage. The HFEA is now in the process of contacting all fertility clinics to 're-emphasise our existing guidance around the importance of written consent and of clinics' crucial role in documenting patients' wishes clearly'.

Birmingham Mail | 13 March 2014 | 06 March 2014
BBC News | 13 March 2014
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (press release) | 13 March 2014
Huffington Post | 13 March 2014


27 June 2016 - by Ryan Ross 
The widow of a Falklands veteran is going to the High Court in an attempt to stop the couple's frozen embryos from being destroyed...
21 September 2015 - by Andrew Berkley 
There is no excuse for the administrative incompetence of fertility clinics that has resulted in legal parenthood uncertainty for at least 84 couples, but are medical providers the ideal professionals to seek consent for legal parenthood?...
02 March 2015 - by Merry Varney and Jemma Dally 
From April 2009, certain procedural steps have been required to ensure non-birth parents of donor conceived children, who are not married to or in a civil partnership with the birth parent, become the legal parent of their child. Unfortunately, a recent audit by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) discovered that 50 clinics reported anomalies with their practices and procedures in respect of the signing of the consent forms for legal parenthood...

10 March 2014 - by Chee Hoe Low 
A widow has won a legal battle to keep her late husband's sperm preserved for future use...
09 December 2013 - by María Victoria Rivas Llanos 
A woman is seeking an extension in the storage of her late husband's sperm at the UK's High Court...
31 May 2011 - by MacKenna Roberts 
A widow has been granted possession of her late husband's sperm in an 'exceptional' Australian court ruling last week...
27 April 2009 - by Nisha Satkunarajah 
A New York court has ruled in favour of Giselle Marrero, a woman who sought a court order allowing the extraction and preservation of her dead fiancee's sperm. Miss Marrero told the Bronx State Supreme Court that on the day before his death that Johnny Quintana, 31...

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Published by the Progress Educational Trust


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Speakers include

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Professor Robin Lovell-Badge

Sally Cheshire

Professor Guido Pennings

Katherine Littler

Professor Allan Pacey

Dr Sue Avery

Professor Richard Anderson

Dr Elizabeth Garner

Dr Andy Greenfield

Dr Anna Smajdor

Dr Henry Malter

Vivienne Parry

Dr Helen O'Neill

Dr César Palacios-González

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Fiona Fox

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Sandy Starr


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