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Q&A with Sally Cheshire

17 December 2018
Appeared in BioNews 980

This is a summary of questions and answers with Sally Cheshire at the Progress Educational Trust's 2018 Annual Conference 'Make Do or Amend: Should We Update UK Fertility and Embryo Law?'. The text of Sally's preceding Keynote Presentation can be found here.

Questions began with a two-part enquiry. How would the HFEA advise countries such as Portugal and Spain which are debating donor anonymity? And what were the HFEA's expectations regarding UK donor disclosures in the future? 

It was acknowledged that donor anonymity is a contentious debate; once the decision to lift the anonymity of future sperm donors in the UK had been made 14 years ago there was an initial blip in donor numbers. However, the fear of donor shortages did not materialise, and donor numbers have risen year on year. 

It was highlighted that the HFEA continues its work to publicise 'opening the register requests', when a donor-conceived person applies for access to information about their donor if this is available. It was also emphasised that the HFEA ensures the provision of counselling and support as part of this process, and has a plan working towards 2023 (when the first children to be conceived after the ending of donor anonymity will turn 18).

The next question concerned requirements for reporting details of patients and their IVF treatments to the HFEA. As additional information about patients is required for reporting purposes, it was asked if some information is no longer needed could be removed.

Also, the HFEA holds data for patients who do not get pregnant for 30 years. Is this necessary? Cheshire emphasised that the HFEA holds the biggest database of its kind in the world, and such information is important so that we can go back to different eras for comparison.

The closing questioner asked whether the HFEA would welcome acting as a regulator of surrogacy?

'Probably not' was the response, because the IVF elements of surrogacy are already regulated as part of IVF treatment. New guidelines, however, will strengthen patient support and counselling.

This question picked up a recurring theme in subsequent addresses, where the overarching message was current surrogacy law is not fit for purpose and needs revision. A call for revision from the regulator might be helpful.

The Progress Educational Trust would like to thank the sponsors of its conference - the Anne McLaren Memorial Trust Fund, the Edwards and Steptoe Research Trust Fund, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, JMW Solicitors, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, the European Sperm Bank, the London Women's Clinic, Vitrolife and the Institute of Medical Ethics.

21 January 2019 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
The final session at the Progress Educational Trust's annual conference 'Make Do or Amend: Should We Update UK Fertility and Embryo Law?' continued the theme of looking to future reform of fertility law, as had the keynote address given by Sir James Munby...
17 December 2018 - by Sally Cheshire CBE 
A Keynote Presentation given by Sally Cheshire, Chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, at the Progress Educational Trust's 2018 Annual Conference...
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