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Children born after IVF embryos used without father's consent

5 March 2008
Appeared in BioNews 447

A UK man has two children he did not know existed, born after his estranged wife conceived using the IVF embryos they had created together, the Sunday Times has reported. The couple were treated for infertility at Bourn Hall clinic, near Cambridge, and the resulting embryos - created using the man's sperm - were frozen. Following the couple's separation, the woman forged her husband's signature on consent forms so that she could have the embryos thawed and returned to her womb, becoming pregnant on two separate occasions.

UK law states that consent from both parties is needed for the continued storage of frozen embryos, or for their use. However, although clinics must have written permission from the father to use an embryo created using his sperm, there is no requirement for him to attend in person. Muiris Lyons, a partner in the law firm Irwin Mitchell, commented that 'This is the first case of its kind that I have been aware of and it underlines the importance of IVF clinics ensuring they obtain proper consent'.

The husband only became aware of the children's existence when one became seriously ill, and a relative contacted him to break the news. He has since sought legal advice about suing the clinic, according to the Sunday Times. Dr Kamal Ahuja, director of the London Women's Clinic, said that they almost had a similar case two years ago - they were about to implant embryos into a woman when they discovered she had lied to them about her husband's consent. 'We were almost hoodwinked and I would imagine this is not rare', he said.

The current situation is in stark contrast to that of Natallie Evans, the UK woman who last year lost her European court appeal to use stored frozen embryos against the wishes of her former partner. Ms Evans underwent IVF with Howard Johnston in 2001, before Ms Evans had treatment for  ovarian cancer that left her infertile. Mr Johnston later withdrew his consent for the six embryos to be used when the couple split up. In April 2007, the Grand Chamber of the European Court ruled unanimously that there had been no breach of the right to life (Article 2) of the European Convention on Human Rights. On the right to respect for private and family life (Article 8) and the prohibition of discrimination (Article 14), the judges ruled 13 to four against Ms Evans.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Husband discovered he was a father of two after estranged wife forged his signature in IVF deception
The Daily Mail |  2 March 2008
Wife's embryo fraud makes estranged husband a father
The Times |  2 March 2008
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