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Laws and regulations

Outlines all UK legislation governing IVF treatments, donor services, freezing services and research.

United Kingdom legislation

In the UK the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act was introduced in 1990. It empowers the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to regulate all infertility treatment centres, which provide IVF treatments, donor services (donor sperm, eggs and embryos), freezing services (freezing sperm, eggs or embryos) or conduct research on human embryos.

From 1st August 1991, the HFEA has acted as the licensing authority of all the above centres and inspect them annually. In addition to licensing, it has several other responsibilities:

  • Publish a code of practice to guide centres about implementing the act.
  • Keep a confidential register about donors and recipients and treatments.
  • Give advice and information to licensed centres.
  • Give advice and information to couple seeking fertility treatment.

Under the terms of the HFEA Act 1990, any fertility centre in the United Kingdom offering treatment must take account of the welfare of any child who may be born as a result of a treatment, and of any other children who may be affected by the birth. In order to fulfill this obligation, clinics need to assess each case before accepting them onto the program. The following welfare of the child issues may be discussed with the patients:

  • Age and likely future ability to look after or provide for a child's need.
  • Their commitment to having and bringing up a child, or children.
  • Economic status, their ability to meet the needs of any child or children born as a result of treatment.
  • Home environment, and the effect of the new baby or babies upon any existing children.
  • Mental and physical health of the parents.
  • The medical and family history of the couples and their families.
  • Criminal history of parents.
  • If they have any children removed from their custody and any history of child abuse.
  • The potential child need to know about their origin.

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