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HFEA allows mother to export dead daughter's eggs

19 September 2016
Appeared in BioNews 869

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has allowed a woman wanting to conceive using her dead daughter's eggs to export them to the US for treatment.

The daughter had stored her eggs after being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 21. After learning that the cancer was terminal, her mother claimed that they had agreed that she would carry the eggs to have a child in the event that her daughter would be unable to do so (see BioNews 801).

However, the daughter did not complete the necessary consent forms for such a use before she died, which meant that the eggs could not lawfully be used by the mother in the UK. A clinic in the US agreed to the treatment using donor sperm, but the mother required export permission from the HFEA to send the eggs abroad.  

The HFEA's Statutory Approvals Committee (SAC) considered the case but refused to allow the export, saying that there was insufficient evidence that the daughter had consented to their proposed use.

The mother unsuccessfully challenged this decision at the High Court (reported in BioNews 807), but then succeeded in overturning the ruling at the Court of Appeal last June. The Court of Appeal held that the HFEA's refusal was 'flawed' and 'irrational', requiring it to reconsider the case (reported in BioNews 858). The HFEA has now allowed the export to take place.

'Our [SAC] reconsidered this case in the light of the Appeal Court judgment. They agreed, in the exceptional and unique circumstances of this case, to grant special directions to export [the daughter's] eggs to the USA,' the HFEA said in a statement.

'This has been a difficult case, above all for [the mother and her husband], but as the judge made clear, such issues of consent are the cornerstone of the law and needed to be carefully considered.'

Speaking after the decision was announced, the mother, who is 60 years old, said that she and her husband were 'very pleased that the HFEA have now agreed to release our beloved daughter's eggs for export to the US'.

Natalie Gamble, the solicitor who represented the mother, also welcomed the decision. 'This case is an incredibly sad story, and we would urge anyone storing eggs or sperm to record as clearly as possible in writing what they intend to happen if they die,' she said.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
HFEA Statement regarding the Statutory Approvals Committee decision in the M Case
HFEA |  9 September 2016
UK woman allowed to export dead daughter's eggs to US for treatment
The Telegraph |  9 September 2016
UK woman allowed to use dead daughter's eggs in US
BBC News |  9 September 2016
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