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Seamus Burns

Seamus Burns

In the first of a two-part analysis, Seamus Burns examines the potential for exploitation, together with ethical issues, in relation to egg sharing within IVF treatment

A recent press investigation (Daily Mail, May 2017) alleged that several licensed fertility clinics were exploiting women desperate to have their own children by in vitro fertilisation (IVF) by asking them to donate some of their eggs in exchange for free, or reduced price, treatment, or even for cash, and further that some fertility clinics were allegedly giving women ‘false hope by exaggerating their success rates with frozen eggs’. This flags up the reality that 60% of infertility treatments are privately funded, that clinics that charge patients directly for fertility treatments are businesses, and the necessity of both rigorous control and regulation of the infertility business. This situation should also serve to concentrate the minds of government, the NHS and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to address the controversial and iniquitous shortcomings of the current NHS IVF postcode lottery that effectively drives a lot of patients into the private sector, or to seek IVF in another (less regulated and safe) country, or indeed, for many, to the personally devastating option of remaining childless.

In the conclusion to a two-part analysis, Seamus Burns looks at the wider considerations revealed in a fertility treatment case and the issues to be addressed

The first part of this consideration of Munby P’s decision in In the matter of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (Cases A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H) [2015] set out the complex background of the conjoined cases before the president and the pertinent law. This concluding part will consider the approach taken by Munby P, the criticisms he levelled at the fertility clinics, and the lessons to be learnt.

In the first of a two-part analysis, Seamus Burns questions whether a recent decision of the president of the Family Division is a damning indictment on the infertility industry

The decision in In the matter of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (Cases A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H) [2015] simultaneously provides both justice and some degree of judicial vindication to the couples concerned who were desperate to have children and had followed (they genuinely believed) the critical rules regarding consent in infertility treatment, only to discover that due to ‘the administrative incompetence of various fertility clinics’ that this was not the case. Because of the errors, doubts had arisen regarding the parentage of the couples’ IVF children, and the case raises huge concerns about the administrative competence of those licensed fertility clinics to demonstrably comply with crucial regulatory provisions governing infertility treatments. Does this case represent the tip of a non-compliant, and administratively incompetent, fertility clinic iceberg?

In the conclusion to a two-part analysis Seamus Burns further examines the open consultation on mitochondrial donation and looks at ethical issues

The first part of this article ('New horizons', FLJ138, p18-21) considered issues raised by the Department of Health’s open consultation on mitochondrial donation regarding the use of new treatment techniques to prevent the transmission of a serious mitochondrial disease from mother to child. This concluding part looks at the status of a mitochondrial donor, information available to mitochondrial conceived persons, and ethical concerns.

Seamus Burns examines new developments in embryology and the role of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority

The Department of Health’s open consultation, titled ‘Mitochondrial Donation – A consultation on draft regulations to permit the use of new treatment techniques to prevent the transmission of a serious mitochondrial disease from mother to child’ (see www.legalease.co.uk/serious-mitochondrial-disease) closed on 21 May 2014 and sought views on draft regulations on the use of new techniques to prevent mothers passing serious mitochondrial diseases to their children. The consultation signals a welcome attempt by the government to try and secure hopefully informed, balanced and constructive comments from interested parties and bodies and the wider public on ethically controversial, but potentially highly significant, emerging scientific developments and techniques. It has implications too for the institution of the family. For some such developments and techniques represent a further instance of slipping down the ethical slippery slope, while in contrast for others it heralds another bright and promising scientific dawn in the ongoing battle waged by scientists/researchers and doctors against the serious illnesses and diseases that afflict humanity.

In the conclusion to a two-part analysis Seamus Burns discusses wider impacts of the draft NICE Guidelines on treatment

Part one of this article introduced the draft revised fertility guidelines issued for public consultation by NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) in May 2012, highlighting definitions with the guidelines and related case law. This concluding part will consider the draft guidelines on multiple births, predictions of IVF success, egg donation and sharing and factors such as HIV and cancer.

In the first of a two-part consideration Seamus Burns looks at the draft NICE Guidelines on the availability of IVF treatment

The draft revised fertility guidelines issued for public consultation by NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) in May 2012 seemingly represent an apparent liberalisation of the existing 2004 NICE guidelines extending the availability of certain fertility treatments to a wider potential pool of infertile couples and individuals, but this notional widening of the availability/accessibility must be viewed with a certain degree of circumspection and caution, given the failure of previous governments and primary care trusts to honour and completely follow key recommendations contained in the current 2004 NICE guidelines, primarily those relating to the number of IVF treatment cycles given to infertile couples. The reality of fertility treatment does not always correspond with the avowed policy rhetoric.

In the conclusion to his two-part analysis of the regulation of embryology, Seamus Burns highlights the work undertaken by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), acting under the auspices and aegis of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (HFEA 1990) and now the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (HFEA 2008), has incontrovertibly regulated and policed a burgeoning assisted reproduction industry over the past almost 20 years.

In the first of a two-part analysis of the regulation of embryology, Seamus Burns examines the role of recently culled Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority

The recent announcement by the new coalition government of the cull and bonfire of many quangos or arm’s length bodies, (ALBs), including the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) whose functions will be allocated to other existing and retained health ALBs by the end of this current Parliament (ie May 2015), signals the demise of arguably one of the more effective and respected quangos, and it is an opportune time to reflect and assess the role, successes and challenges faced by HFEA since its creation in 1991 up to the end of 2010.