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Report of IVF 'blunders' inquiry is published

24 June 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 264

The UK's Department of Health has published a report of its inquiry into the circumstances surrounding a number of IVF mix-ups, one of which led to mixed-race twins being born to a white couple. Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, commissioned Professor Brian Toft, in July 2002, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the sperm mix-up and three other adverse events that occurred at assisted reproduction units in the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS trust, West Yorkshire.

Professor Toft found that a mixture of human error, poor management and systems failures caused the adverse events. His report, which makes more than 100 recommendations for change, heavily criticised fertility services, the government and the body - the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) - that licenses and regulates the provision of fertility services in the UK.

In the report, the HFEA is accused of operating within a 'culture of secrecy', ultimately undermining its effectiveness. A number of problems with the way the authority managed itself and carried out inspections have also been identified. The government is criticised for depriving the HFEA of the funds it needs to run efficiently. Since the authority was established in 1990, the report says, there has been a large increase of the number of clinics in its remit, without a corresponding increase in the funds it receives. And the fertility centres themselves are criticised for lacking facilities and staff.

While the report includes recommendations to the Department of Health, the HFEA and the Leeds NHS Trust, Professor Toft makes clear that significant improvements have already been made since the events occurred. 'Both in the course of the review and since, the HFEA and the Leeds Trust have been addressing the concerns identified and I am confident that they are putting in place the necessary arrangements to make significant progress', he said. In a statement, the HFEA welcomed the recommendations, saying that prior to the report being published, it had already put in place 85 per cent of Professor Toft's proposals.

HFEA response to the TOFT report
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority |  22 June 2004
Labelling blamed for IVF baby mix-up
The Daily Telegraph |  23 June 2004
Report published into IVF incidents at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
Department of Health |  22 June 2004
Secrecy blamed for fertility mix-ups
The Guardian |  23 June 2004
12 December 2011 - by Jessica Ware 
A fertility clinic in Kent is under investigation after reports that staff may have lost a woman's embryos. Alison Austin-Hennessy, 31, said she and her husband Michael were informed by a consultant at the private Chaucer Hospital that their embryos had been misplaced....
4 May 2010 - by Seil Collins 
The number of reported mistakes at IVF centres in England and Wales has doubled over one year, rising from 182 in 2007/08 to 334 in 2008/09. Incidents range from technical failures to serious mix-ups. Cases where embryos have been lost, implanted into the wrong patient, or fertilised with the wrong sperm have all been reported....
20 September 2004 - by BioNews 
A black American couple have succeeded in gaining compensation from an infertility clinic after their IVF embryo was mistakenly implanted into another woman. The clinic has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to the couple, whose treatment took place in 1998, in return for their agreement not to proceed with...
6 October 2003 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
While one might have sympathy for Natallie Evans and Lorraine Hadley because the UK's High Court has ruled they cannot use the embryos they have in frozen storage, it is hard to criticise the legal decision in this case. Mr Justice Wall followed the letter of the law on consent...
3 March 2003 - by BioNews 
A senior High Court judge has ruled that a black man is the legal father of mixed-race twins born to a white couple after a the wrong man's sperm was accidentally used in IVF treatment. Last year, genetic tests established that the white woman who gave birth to the twins...
3 March 2003 - by Juliet Tizzard 
This week's BioNews reports on the recent High Court ruling that the biological father in the case of the IVF embryo mix-up is also the legal father. This might sound like common sense until the facts of the case are made clear. Mr and Mrs A have two children, twin...
11 November 2002 - by BioNews 
Last week, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, head of the Family Division of the UK's High Court, made a statement about the case of a white woman who gave birth to mixed-race twins after a mistake at an IVF clinic earlier this year. The clinic at the centre of the row over...
4 November 2002 - by Juliet Tizzard 
As we report in this week's BioNews, two IVF clinics in the United Kingdom are currently subject to investigations after sperm and embryos respectively were mixed up in the laboratory. A mistake at the Diana Princess of Wales clinic at St George's Hospital in London led to the wrong embryos...
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