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NHS confirms IVF twins have not been abandoned

2 June 2008
Appeared in BioNews 460

Fears that twin baby girls conceived through IVF treatment in India had been abandoned by their parents have been struck out by the UK's West NHS Trust. The Sun newspaper broke the news by reporting how the parents of the child, an Indian couple with British citizenship, travelled to India to receive fertility treatment to circumvent UK age restrictions imposed on the provision of IVF. The mother is 59 years of age and would be ineligible for IVF on the NHS in the UK.

When the children were born at New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton, the Sun reported how the parents told medical staff they did not want a child of the 'wrong sex' and asked when the mother will be well enough to return to India for further fertility treatment. It was then feared that the children were being abandoned by their parents.

A spokesman for West Midlands NHS Trust denied the reports, saying the Trust was not required to become involved. In a statement issued last Thursday confirming the birth of the twins, it said 'the parents are visiting their daughters and are attentive to their needs'. It has been confirmed that West Midlands police are not involved and no referral to social services was made. The Trust would not release the details of the twins or the parents for reasons to do with patient confidentiality.

John Paul Maytum, spokesman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which regulates fertility treatment in the UK, said that 'under UK law, before anybody is given treatment, there's a requirement that the doctor must take account of the welfare of any children born'. National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines recommend that couples should be offered up to three cycles of IVF treatment on the NHS if the woman is aged between 23 and 39. In India, however, IVF is completely unregulated. The Times newspaper reports how many foreign couples travel to India to receive treatment they would not be eligible for in their home countries, such as if the mother was too old. The couples are also attracted by the low prices where an IVF cycle may cost as little as $1,000. It says that although fertility treatment is still new in India with around 15,000 couples receiving the treatment last year, the number of foreign couples receiving fertility treatment in India has shot up from 50 in 204 to over 500 last year alone.

There is great concern about the preference for giving birth to boys in Indian society with a gender imbalance in the population becoming greater in recent years. Using IVF procedures to select the sex of the child for 'social reasons' is currently not permitted in the UK but in India a couple might be able to gain access to unregulated IVF to select only male embryos to be placed back into the womb. It is not alleged the parents of the twins concerning in this case were trying to do this.

The Sun has since reported how the family of the twins has since explained the misunderstanding as owing to a lack of communication. The twins' half brother told the newspaper 'my father's English is not good and the person receiving it at the other end must have lost something in translation...The twins will be raised as their daughters. They will not be neglected'. The father of the twins confirmed the children will be looked after: 'they are my children - we love my children', he said.

Hospital denies couple abandoned IVF twins because they are girls
The Daily Telegraph |  29 May 2008
IVF twin baby girls 'not dumped by parents'
The Guardian |  29 May 2008
IVF twins - NHS trust disputes claims
The Times |  29 May 2008
We do love 'em says IVF father
The Sun |  30 May 2008
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