December 4, 2022

HFEA scraps single-embryo policy after court defeat

The UK’s fertility watchdog, the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority, has lost a significant court battle to limit the number of multiple births from IVF treatment.

The UK’s fertility watchdog, the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority, has lost a significant court battle to limit the number of multiple births from IVF treatment. In a case that went to the High Court, Mohamed Taranissi, the manager of two IVF clinics, challenged the HFEA’s right to impose a quota on the number of multiple births in each clinic. The high court ruled in favor of Taranissi, saying that decisions about implanting multiple embryos should be made on case-by-case medical grounds. Having a quota would impede this.

There are far greater risks involved in multiple births. The likelihood of disability and long term health conditions is significantly increased, and there is a greater chance of premature birth.

In a radical response to the decision, the HFEA has scrapped its license criterion that clinics limit the number of multiple births to 10%. The authority thought it unjust that some clinics be exempt from regulations imposed on others: “It is simply not appropriate that two of the 83 IVF clinics should not have this particular condition on their licences. Professionals are entitled to a level playing field and, by removing this licence condition, that is what we will achieve.”

Despite this move, the HFEA still stands by its multiple births policy. “We will still expect clinics to bring the multiple birth rate down to 10% – in the interests of IVF mothers and their babies,” said HFEA chair Lisa Jardine. 

Xavier Symons
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HFEA
IVF
single-embryo transfer