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HFEA highlights problems with consent forms

Annual report on adverse incidents sets out lessons to be learned

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's latest annual report of adverse incidents in fertility clinics (covering incidents reported to it in 2015) has highlighted problems relating to consent to legal parenthood.

Since 6 April 2009, the partners of women treated with donor sperm or embryos, where the couple is neither married nor in a civil partnership, have had to give their written consent in order to become the legal parent of any child born as a result of treatment. If this written consent is not obtained correctly, the partner may not be legally recognised as the parent of the child(ren) born.

The issue first came to light in May 2013 in E & F (Assisted Reproduction: Parent) [2013] EWHC 1418 (Fam). That case involved a same sex couple, where the partner of the woman treated with donor sperm was declared not to be the legal parent of the children born to her partner.

Following an audit of all licensed clinics, the HFEA is now aware of 23 cases with legal parenthood consent anomalies which have been resolved, or are in the process of being resolved, by the High Court. A series of judgments have appeared concerning such matters commencing with In the matter of HFEA 2008 (Cases A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H Declaration of Parentage) [2015] EWHC 2602 (Fam). The most recent is Case V (Human Fertilisation And Embryology Act 2008) [2016] EWHC 2356 (Fam).

The most common serious mistakes highlighted by the audit were cases of:

The HFEA has taken measures to improve practice within clinics and to follow up findings with each clinic involved in legal proceedings concerning deficient consent.

To read the report, please click here.