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Family disputes
Donor conception/ co-parenting
Fertility treatment
Transgender family law

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The HFEA and its role

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) was set up in 1991 and comprises members (the majority of whom are clinicians, researchers or other fertility/embryology professionals) and a lay chair.   The Authority oversees a staff which licenses and inspects fertility clinics in the UK. In the UK, you need a licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to: Provide medical treatment involving human embryos, eggs or sperm Create human embryos (or...

Consent rules for embryos

Egg and sperm providers must formally consent to an embryo being created with their gametes, and to their embryo being stored or used in treatment.  Formal consent is also needed for embryos to be donated to another person or to a research project.  Egg and sperm providers can specify any conditions when giving consent, and those conditions must be followed. Consent must be given in writing and signed to be valid (although there are some special rules which allow a person who is physi...

Storage periods for gametes and embryos

The law specifies the maximum periods for which eggs, sperm or embryos can be stored (assuming that the egg and sperm provider consent to storage for this period). The basic maximum storage period is ten years.  When this period comes to an end, the eggs, sperm or embryos must be allowed to perish unless the extended storage rules apply. Special rules allow extended storage for people storing eggs, sperm or embryos because they are prematurely infertile.  Storage can be extended in t...

Embryo testing and PGD

Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is a technique for testing the genetic make-up of embryos before they are used in treatment.  PGD has been carried out in the UK (under HFEA licence and regulation) for many years, but in 2008 Parliament created laws which restrict the circumstances in which such techniques can be used.  The law now allows embryo testing in the UK only for the following purposes: Excluding serious genetic abnormalities PGD can be used to exclude a gene, chromoso...

Consent rules for eggs and sperm

Eggs and sperm can only be stored or used in treatment or for research if the gamete provider formally consents.  To be valid, consent must be in writing and signed (although there are some special rules which allow a person who is physically incapacitated to ask someone else to sign for them). In practice, consent is normally given using a signed HFEA form, although consent is equally valid in another written/signed form (such as a letter).  Before giving consent, counselling must be...

Posthumous conception: consent to treatment

When consent is given to eggs, sperm or embryos being stored or used, the gamete provider is asked to decide what should happen if they die or become mentally incapable.  They can allow their partner (or, if they are a donor, their recipient) to proceed with treatment using their gametes or embryos after they have died.  It is very important that consent is given carefully and with sufficient detail, since the consent will be relied on after they have died and by then it will be too l...

Posthumous conception: legal parenthood of the deceased parent

If a woman's stored eggs or embryos are used to conceive a child (for example through surrogacy) after she has died, she is not treated as the legal mother. In line with the general law on parenthood, the woman who carries the child is treated as the mother. If a man's sperm or embryos are used to conceive a child after he has died, the position is a little more complex. When the laws on parenthood were first passed in 1990, they included a clear provision that any man who conceived posthumou...

NGA publication: The HFEA gets into gear on surrogacy (Bionews, Oct 2013)

The HFEA updated its Code of Practice guidance on surrogacy in October 2013 (following advice from NGA). Our article, published in Bionews in May 2013, explains the changes.

NGA publication: The rise of alternative families (INUK, Spring 2011)

Natalie’s article, published in the Infertility Network UK magazine (spring 2011) looks at how things have changed for same-sex parents and families created through surrogacy and donation over the last ten years

NGA publication: Fertility tourism: what you need to know (INUK magazine, Winter 2010)

More parents than ever before are crossing borders for fertility treatment involving egg donation and surrogacy. Natalie's article for charity Infertility Network UK's magazine (published winter 2010) summarises the legal issues for UK fertility patients considering treatment overseas.

NGA publication: Birth after death - creating life when a parent has died (INUK, Winter 2010)

Natalie’s article for Infertility Network UK magazine, published Winter 2010, looks at how the law works for widowed parents who want to use their partner’s gametes or embryos to conceive a child after their death

NGA publication: Morally straightforward but legally complex – a welcome change to the embryo storage rules (Bionews, Sept 2009)

Natalie's article, published in Bionews in September 2009, looks at the government's last minute decision in September 2009 to change the rules on extended storage to allow embryos being stored for surrogacy to be subject to the same rules as other embryos. This was a change to the law we campaigned for successfully.

NGA publication: Embryo testing and PGD (INUK, Summer 2009)

Natalie's article, written for fertility patients and published in the Infertility Network UK magazine in summer 2009, explains how UK law governs embryo testing.

NGA publication: The brave new world of fertility law (INUK, Spring 2008)

Natalie's article, published in the Infertility Network UK magazine in spring 2008, explains the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill 2008 and its proposed changes to the law, covering same-sex parents, welfare of the child, donor information rights and embryo storage.

UK court decision: Warren v CARE (2013) - widow successfully fought to extend storage of her late husband's sperm

In 2014, widow Beth Warren won a legal case against the HFEA relating to storage periods. Her husband had stored his sperm before cancer treatment and consented to her using it after his death. The HFEA said that Beth could only continue his sperm (after his death) for ten years after his initial consent. Upholding Beth's case, the court said that the HFEA should deem his consent to have been extended when he last renewed his annual storage fee.

Resources: Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 deals with parenthood law in surrogacy cases. Sections 33 to 53 set out who are treated as the legal parents when a child is born. Section 54 sets out the rules on parental orders.

Resources: HFEA Code of Practice guidance on surrogacy

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority’s Code of Practice gives guidance to fertility clinics on surrogacy, setting out how UK clinics should deal with surrogacy cases, and explaining the procedures and options for allocating legal parenthood

Resources: Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Statutory Storage Period for Embryos and Gametes) Regulations 2009

These regulations set out the circumstances in which fertility patients can extend the storage of their gametes or embryos beyond ten years.