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Fertility doctor wins libel costs and tops IVF league tables

13 October 2008
Appeared in BioNews 479

New figures release last week by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) show that two clinics run by fertility expert Mohammad Taranissi - the Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre (ARGC) and the Reproductive Genetics Institute (RGI) - are the most successful in the country in terms of 'live birth rates' (the number of babies born compared to the number of IVF cycles carried out). Meanwhile, the High Court has ruled that the BBC must pay half a million pounds towards Mr Taranissi's ongoing libel action over an undercover 'Panorama' documentary programme in which police-assisted HFEA teams unlawfully raided his two clinics.

Out of more than 100 clinics offering IVF in Britain, the ARGC achieved double the national average for live births following IVF or ICSI, where the sperm is injected directly into the egg. Figures for 2006, the most up-to-date available, show a live birth rate of 61 percent for the ARGC compared to 31 percent nationally.

The figures were published as the BBC was ordered by the High Court to pay £500,000 to Mr Taranissi after its lawyers took the decision to drop a 15-month-old defence to his claim that the allegations about his techniques, aired in 'Panorama', were not defamatory but part of 'responsible journalism' and thereby made in the public interest. The decision was allegedly taken to avoid revealing the sources for the programme. However, Richard Rampton QC, Mr Taranissi's counsel, accused the BBC of exaggerating the number of sources who contributed to the allegations.

'It's Alice in Wonderland stuff', he told the Times newspaper, adding that 'one of the so-called medical experts was actually an administrative assistant'. He also criticised Panorama for 'misleading' viewers, which the BBC has denied.

The BBC still denies libel. Its QC, Adrienne Page, said the payment of costs should wait until the case had finished. She said: 'All this order can do is create the very real and substantial risk that there will be an injustice to the BBC in the event, which the court must assume is a real possibility, that they succeed in the justification defence'.

The case will be brought to a close in January when Mr Taranissi's claim is due to be tried by a judge sitting without a jury.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
BBC ordered to pay £500,000 costs
BBC News Online |  8 October 2008
BBC's £500,000 legal bill for fertility clinic investigation
Daily Mail |  9 October 2008
BBC to pay half a million pounds costs in IVF libel case
The Times |  9 October 2008
Doctor in IVF furore is best, says watchdog
The Guardian |  9 October 2008
IVF successes top 10,000 per year
BBC News Online |  8 October 2008
Taranissi tops IVF league table
Press Association |  9 October 2008
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