This week the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's (HFEA's) published its eagerly awaited 8th Code of Practice. Coming into force on 1st October 2009, the new Code of Practice has been published in order to reflect and develop upon the new changes at law introduced by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill 2008.
Alongside the Code of Practice, amendments to consent forms for donors, patients and their partners and revised HFEA Directions have also been published to reflect the changing legal culture. All are available on the HFEA website.
In a letter announcing the new code of practice to all clinics listened by the HFEA, Professor Lisa Jardine, Chair of the HFEA, said that the document had been published well in advance in order to give fertility clinics time to 'get ready' for the changes in practice to be updated.
She said in a statement: 'The UK's fertility clinics treat thousands of patients each year and are responsible for the safety of these patients, their eggs, sperm and embryos. Our new Code of Practice sits alongside robust and targeted regulation, to ensure that clinics are absolutely clear about their responsibilities.'
One of the changes that the code of practice will bring into force is 'costed treatment plans', a measure which will mean all clinics regulated by the HFEA must declare the full cost of a patient's treatment cycle at the outset. IVF can cost up to £3,500 per cycle and up to 70 per cent of patients currently pay for their own treatment rather than claiming it on the NHS, which has long waiting lists.
The regulator says that this change to the code of practice is key to helping families understand the full implications of having fertility treatment, including financial ones. 'With the majority of people in the UK funding their own treatment, cost is a major concern. The changes to our Code will help ensure that patients know upfront exactly how expensive their treatment will be,' said Professor Jardine.
The new code also provides a clear definition of 'supportive parenting' which will help same-sex couples and single parents to access treatment without the 'need for a father' referred to in earlier guidelines. It also recommends a 'cooling off period' during which embryos belonging to separated couples can be put into storage to allow time for a potential reconciliation before the embryos are destroyed.