Fertility Law

Fertility treatment creates a number of medical and legal issues which need to be carefully managed from the outset.

Fertility treatment continues to evolve and medical techniques include: in vitro fertilisation (IVF), intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), intrauterine insemination (IUI) and donor insemination (DI).

Developments in assisted reproductive technology, together with the demands of modern families built through assisted conception, continue to challenge and outpace the law. The HFEA requires fertility patients to give informed consent to treatment, including both the medical and legal aspects. Fertility patients and modern families take many forms comprising solo parents, heterosexual and same sex couples as well as families formed through donor conception, known donation, co-parenting, posthumous conception and surrogacy. This creates complex legal issues and it can have unintended outcomes which can leave patients without legal status and confer unwanted legal status on others.

Patients undergoing fertility treatment also need to make important decisions about the storage and future use of their eggs, sperm and embryos. The law is complex and a lack of understanding and management of the legal issues can create unexpected difficulties, which can come into sharp focus following illness, death and relationship breakdown.

It is therefore the consistent message of the English Court that all parties involved in assisted conception and modern family building should obtain specialist fertility and modern family law advice before establishing a pregnancy.

I offer expert legal advice on the complex legal and practical issues associated with fertility treatment, assisted conception and modern family building to include:

  • Fertility treatment at a UK licensed clinic
  • Sperm donation in the UK and internationally
  • Egg donation in the UK and internationally
  • Surrogacy law in the UK and internationally
  • Co-parenting law
  • Known donation law
  • Posthumous conception law
  • Complex family law disputes and issues

Fertility law cases

I am recognised as a leading expert in UK fertility law and have dealt with numerous important and well known fertility treatment cases including:

XX v Whittington Hospital NHS Trust [2018] EWCA Civ 2832, where for the first time the Court of Appeal awarded damages for the costs of commercial surrogacy and fertility treatment in California for a woman rendered infertile and unable to carry a pregnancy following a delay in detecting cancer in smear tests and biopsies.

Y v A Healthcare NHS Trust & The HFEA & Z (by his litigation friend, The Official Solicitor) [2018] EWCOP 18, a first-of-its kind judgment which secured a unique legal ruling from the Court of Protection to extract and store sperm from a fatally injured man for use in posthumous fertility treatment and featured in The Independent (13 July 2018) and The Times (14 July 2018).

XX v Whittington Hospital NHS Trust [2017] EWHC 2318 (QB), being the first legal case in the UK in which the Court awarded damages to a woman for altruistic UK surrogacy and fertility treatment following a delay in detecting cancer in smear tests and biopsies. This case marks the cross-section of fertility and medical negligence law. It highlights the importance of fertility, surrogacy and parenting law aspects when medical negligence renders a woman infertile and unable to carry a pregnancy.

In the matter of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (Case V) [2016] EWHC 2356 (Fam), obtaining a declaration of parentage for a woman in a same-sex relationship for a child conceived through fertility treatment at a UK fertility clinic licensed by the HFEA.  The HFEA Consent Form WP was missing from the clinic file.

Media and commentary

Couple who spent £20,000 on IVF treatment before shelling out another £7,000 on ‘add-ons to boost their chances of a baby’ become first in the UK to sue over the ‘worthless and unproven’ extras – (The Mail Online, 10 November 2018)

Was it legal to create a grandson with a dead man’s sperm? (The Times, 13 September 2018)

Rachael Bland’s fight to preserve her fertility is a battle fought by many modern women (Female First, 7 September 2018)

The significance of fertility: A landmark ruling on posthumous conception (BioNews, 3 September 2018)

Posthumous conception: a legacy in life, incapacity and death (Family Law Week, 20 August 2018)

Couple’s delight as lesbian surrogates give them the children they longed for, featuring Louisa Ghevaert – The Telegraph (10 March 2017)

3-person IVF approved by HFEA – what does this mean? – Jordan Publishing and Family Law (31 January 2017)

Why must I be made to feel ashamed of my own baby? Mother of Britain’s 1,000th surrogate child reveals her struggle after infant was handed over to her in a hospital car park – The Daily Mail (7 November 2016)

The Age-Old Question: the impact of age – BioNews (7 January 2013)

Too young to have IVF: 24-year old woman fights for her right to fertility treatment – The Independent (5 June 2012)

Too young for IVF: Wife, 24, told she must wait until she is 30 for treatment – The Daily Mail (4 June 2012)

Couple win legal fight to receive IVF treatment – The Portsmouth News (21 December 2011)

Couple win IVF funding battle with NHS – The Telegraph (20 December 2011)

IVF, donor conception and surrogacy: Is progressive global regulation possible?– BioNews (4 July 2011)