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Court considers request to access dead patient's fertility treatment records

24 February 2020
Appeared in BioNews 1036

A British court is considering a claim to release a deceased patient's fertility clinic records to their heirs.

The case is being heard by Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the family division of the High Court of England and Wales, who has restricted reporting of many details including the identity and gender of the deceased person.

'The president of the family division has heard today in private an application concerning an application under the Access to Health Records Act 1990 to a fertility clinic by a personal representative of a deceased's estate for access to health records regarding the posthumous storage and use of sperm and/or embryos' said a court statement.

Representatives from the deceased's estate have applied for the release of 'sperm and/or egg' storage and use records under the Access to Health Records Act. The act gives individuals (or for patients who have died, their representatives) the right to access their own health records.

However, additional statutory restrictions apply to disclosure of information around fertility treatment, based in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Acts 1990 and 2008. These apply over and above standard medical confidentiality, meaning that information about fertility treatment cannot be included in a patient's general medical records unless the patient specifically consented for it to be. 

This case continues to debate on what happens to frozen gametes or embryos after the death of the patient and has been described as a balance between the rights of the deceased and the rights of those who are not yet born by the Guardian.

UK court hears bid to access fertility clinic's records on dead person
The Guardian |  19 February 2020
27 April 2020 - by Suzi Denton 
A fertility clinic has been ordered to disclose records pertaining to the use of a dead patient's sperm to the personal representative of the patient's estate...
27 January 2020 - by Alegria Vaz Mouyal 
Men should be permitted to donate their sperm after death in the same way they can donate organs, according to a new paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics...
20 January 2020 - by BioNews 
The first in a series of films documenting a recent Progress Educational Trust/Scottish Government event on fertility and medical secrecy, featuring a presentation by Dr Catriona McMillan...
2 December 2019 - by Dr Charlott Repschlager 
The latest meeting organised by the Progress Educational Trust asked the question 'Does fertility treatment still need to be a medical secret?' The event in Edinburgh last week, held in partnership with the Scottish Government, took place off the Royal Mile - through a narrow alleyway in Riddle's Court, one of the many old and imposing buildings scattered through the city...
17 September 2018 - by Martha Henriques 
An investigation has been launched looking into how an embryo was created from a deceased man's sperm without his consent.
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