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New birth certificates issued after consent error

30 January 2017

By Antony Blackburn-Starza

Appeared in BioNews 886

The President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has ordered that new birth certificates be produced for twins born following fertility treatment, after the originals failed to include the father because consent forms were missing. 

The couple, who are not married, received treatment together at CARE Nottingham using donor sperm, which led to the birth of twins. However, when they went to register the birth of their children, the registrars twice refused to include the intended father on the birth certificates because the couple could not produce the consent forms requested – despite being accompanied on one occasion by a member of staff from the clinic.

Birth registration guidance states the need for 'written notice' of the couple's consent to the male partner becoming a legal father where assisted conception is used, which according to the Registrar General was interpreted to refer to consent forms WP and PP – which in this case were missing.

Following the advice of the registrar, the couple decided to leave the father's details blank pending a declaration of parentage. The father told the court: 'I was devastated. I cannot express how I feel about not being recorded on my children's birth certificates as their father.'

The problems for the couple continued as the legal route to correcting the birth certificates would have resulted in them being annotated to show, in effect, that the children may have been born following assisted conception – something the parents wished to avoid.

'[We] had not intended to tell our children that they were conceived using donor sperm, it is only now that we are faced with this situation with their birth certificates that we feel this choice may have been taken away from us and we may have no option but to tell them,' the father said.

In order to issue new birth certificates, the couple were required to make an application for judicial review, claiming that the registrar's decision was an error of law in light of the decision in Re A. In Re A, Lord Justice Munby said that consent form IC – which the couple in this case had signed before treatment – could meet the statutory requirements without the need for forms WP or PP.

Noting that the guidance had not been updated since the decision in Re A, Lord Justice Munby granted the application, permitting the application even though it was made out of time.

He said: 'Put starkly, the state by its actions has denied these parents the right to decide for themselves, within the privacy of the family, what in their view, as devoted parents, is in the best interests of their children – a matter which, to speak plainly, is no business of the state.'

Lord Justice Munby also gave judgment recently in another group of eight cases concerning consent forms, taking the total so far to 24.

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

22 August 2016 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
A High Court judge has questioned aspects of the consent process for fertility treatment in a ruling in which he made a declaration of parentage in respect of a child born following IVF...
18 April 2016 - by Cait McDonagh 
A clerical mistake at a Sheffield IVF clinic meant that a father's status as his child's legal parent was put in doubt...
11 April 2016 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
The President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has criticised as 'insensitive' the handling of a claim brought by the biological mother of twins who was the victim of an administrative error at a fertility clinic...
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?...
14 September 2015 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
The President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has spoken of 'widespread incompetence' in the fertility sector and has questioned the adequacy of the regulatory framework overseen by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority...

HAVE YOUR SAY
State sanctioned identity theft (Verb8m - Updated on 30/01/2017)
According to the Oxford dictionary a birth certificate is an official document issued to record a person's birth and identify them by name, place, date of birth, and parentage.

Your entire life, these few facts are the foundational elements of your identity and your starting point to being a whole person.

Lord Justice Munby has allowed parents to change their twins birth certificates because “the state by its actions has denied these parents the right to decide for themselves, within the privacy of the family, what in their view, as devoted parents, is in the best interests of their children – a matter which, to speak plainly, is no business of the state.'

Except it is the business of the state.

The state’s job is to embody and uphold the truth. The truth in this case, is that the father of these children is not their biological father.

Nothing can stop him bringing up these children, to act as their father in all respects. His biological relationship to the children does not hinder his ability to parent his children.

It is likely this man knows who his father is. It is likely his own deep connection to his biological roots plays a part in his desire to be seen as the biological father of these children.

But in doing so he is denying his children a right he himself enjoys.

With DNA testing becoming commonplace there is a good chance the parents subterfuge will eventually come to light.

A lie this big at the centre of family dynamics will be hard to reconcile.

When these twins discover the truth – and they will, their sense of betrayal will be compounded by the states actions.

The judiciary has colluded in identity theft and sided with insecure parents with shallow understanding of what constitutes a real family.

The children - who remain young and in their parents care for such a short time – are condemned to live the whole of their lives with a lie.

We expect to be able to trust our parents, but when our parents fail us to this degree, colluding in the theft of their children’s identity, then the state is all those children have.

By denying these twins the right to an accurate foundational document Lord Justice Munby has cast them as second-class citizens.

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