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UK fertility watchdog report on embryo mix-ups due

14 December 2009
Appeared in BioNews 538

The UK's fertility industry regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), is poised to report back this week on embryo mix-ups at Guys and St Thomas' Hospital in London. According to The Sun and Independent newspapers, a HFEA licence committee was due to meet today to review the findings of an investigation into what went wrong at the hospital and how to prevent a repeat incident. The hospital came under scrutiny after the embryos of three women were destroyed in February because they were created from the wrong man's sperm.

Poor laboratory practices and failure to follow witnessing rules were blamed for the failures, according to documents obtained by the newspapers under the Freedom of Information Act. Staff allowed 'two semen samples to be processed simultaneously' and there was 'no adherence to all witnessing steps during processing'. 'Double witnessing' - two people signing off - laboratory procedures like placing an embryo in a freezer, was made compulsory following similar mistakes at a Leeds hospital in 2002 and a subsequent independent inquiry.

Last week, a government report on the HFEA's performance found that there was 'room for improvement'. A further blow comes from the newspaper reports saying that despite the fact that previous HFEA inspections had revealed problems with double-witnessing and lab procedures at Guys and St Thomas', the regulator had failed to take sanctions.

The HFEA has responded to the newspaper criticisms on its website.

Incident at Guy's: the Facts
HFEA |  14 December 2009
IVF blunders kept secret
The Sun |  10 December 2009
'Scores of fertility clinics may risk patient safety'
The Independent |  13 December 2009
8 November 2010 - by Nisha Satkunarajah 
A private medical centre in Singapore is under investigation after a mix-up during IVF treatment resulted in the birth of a child conceived with the wrong sperm....
13 September 2010 - by Rose Palmer 
A new technology used by Hull IVF unit to prevent clinical mix-ups when sperm and eggs are combined in the laboratory is to be rolled-out for use across the UK, and has been nominated for an award...
12 April 2010 - by Joanne Anton and Danielle Hamm 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) recently sought the views of the interested public in planning its work for the next year, in an event focusing on a range of ethical, social and legal issues around the future of fertility treatment...
12 April 2010 - by Nisha Satkunarajah 
A new service which enables donor conceived people to make contact with others who have been conceived using the same donor (their genetic siblings) has been launched by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) this week...
25 January 2010 - by Ailsa Stevens 
The UK's Human Fertilisation Authority (HFEA) has for the first time released internal documents from an investigation. These reveal the fertility watchdog's findings about two IVF Grade A incidents at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust. In one, the wrong patient's sperm were used for micro-injection, although none of these eggs were allowed to proceed to fertilisation, and the patients involved were informed immediately; and in the other, four embryos were rendered unusable following PGD treatment
7 December 2009 - by Dr Vivienne Raper 
An official review of the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has commended the fertility watchdog in some areas, but warned that there is 'room for improvement'....
12 May 2009 - by BioNews 
Last week BioNews reported on a letter published in The Sunday Times newspaper in which Brian Toft, professor of patient safety at Coventry University, declared the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) - the UK Government's fertility watchdog - 'unfit for purpose'. BioNews would like to clarify that Professor Toft is not...
5 May 2009 - by Ailsa Stevens 
Following an inquiry into a series of IVF mix-ups at a top London hospital, an official has declared the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) - the UK Government's fertility watchdog - 'unfit for purpose' in a letter to chief medical offer Sir Liam Donaldson, according to a report...
3 May 2009 - by Dr Nadeem Shaikh 
Three couples undergoing IVF treatment at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital, London, have had to have their embryos destroyed after the clinic used sperm from the wrong donor to fertilise the eggs. A spokesman for the clinic said that 'We identified potential problems with the eggs and...
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