A 62-year old woman who will become the UK's oldest woman to give birth to a child has defended her decision to have IVF to enable her to have a baby. Dr Patricia Rashbrook, who already has three children aged 17, 22 and 26, is seven months pregnant and is expecting a boy.
Dr Rashbrook, who travelled to Eastern Europe for the fertility treatment with her second husband, 60-year old John Farrant, paid £7000 for the IVF with a donated egg. While Dr Rashbrook acknowledges the 'controversial' nature of her pregnancy, she said that she and her husband have carefully thought about what they are doing and take their responsibilities very seriously. 'This has not been an endeavour undertaken lightly or without courage. A great deal of thought has been given to planning and providing for the child's present and future wellbeing, medically, socially and materially', she said. She added: 'we are very happy to have given life to an already much-loved baby and our wish now is to give him the peace and security he needs'. She and her husband have appealed for privacy, saying it is their right to be left alone to enjoy their family life.
The treatment was carried out by 'maverick' Italian fertility doctor Severino Antinori., most famous for vowing to clone humans. He said that Dr Rashbrook, despite her age, had all the qualities for maternity. 'We are not giving birth to an orphan', he said.
The oldest woman to have given birth following fertility treatment is Adriana Iliescu, a Romanian woman, who gave birth aged 66 in 2005. Clinics in the UK are not likely to treat women in their sixties - even though it is not illegal to do so, most clinics have an upper age limit and few would treat women over the age of 45. One thing clinics in the UK have to take into account is the welfare of the prospective child - and many fertility doctors would not consider it to be in a child's best interests to be born to parents who are less likely to survive until it is an adult. Richard Kennedy, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, and spokesman for the British Fertility Society, said 'there is a general consensus in the UK that 50 is the threshold at which the natural menopause often occurs and above which treatment shouldn't be provided'. This is, he said, 'not because it can't be done but because of increased risks to the mother'.
Members of pro-life groups have been quicker to condemn the pregnancy. Matthew O'Gorman, of Life, said that the child would be 'without a mother or father at the most crucial moment of adolescence or when that child is growing into maturity'. Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics (Core), said that the pregnancy was evidence of a 'consumer society' that 'wants everything and never stops to think that a child is not a product'.