A married couple from Portsmouth have won a rare IVF funding victory against their local PCT following a hard-fought legal battle. The couple have tried unsuccessfully for a baby for over three years and, despite numerous appeals, were refused funding for IVF treatment on the NHS by Portsmouth City PCT, under the umbrella of South Central, due to the husband’s child from his previous marriage. Following an unsuccessful appeal through their GP, they contacted their local MP, Ms Penny Mordaunt for help, who put the couple in touch with me as a leading expert in fertility law.
Whilst this victory is very welcome, it still leaves many people facing uphill funding battles with their PCTs, which is why I have written to the Secretary of State for Health on this matter.
There needs to be routine implementation of the NICE guidance across the board. There also needs to be greater recognition and understanding of infertility, which blights too many people’s lives and better support for people struggling to have a family and those needing to undergo IVF.
It is unfair to deny a childless woman access to IVF on the NHS if her partner has a child from a previous relationship. This actively discriminates against women and denies them the opportunity to bear their own children and become mothers.
By introducing such stringent age restrictions, it denies younger women access to treatment who have three years of proven infertility when they will have a better chance of conceiving at a younger age. Equally it restricts access to treatment by women who do not actively try for a baby until later in life and who struggle to achieve three years of proven infertility.
Infertility affects one in seven couples in the UK (approx 3.5 million people). The current IVF postcode lottery, coupled with conflicting IVF funding policies between PCTs causes immeasurable heartache and distress for people when faced with the stark reality that they will not be offered the recommended number of free IVF cycles on the NHS or worse none at all. Private fertility treatment can cost thousands of pounds which is too often beyond the reach of the average couple, particularly in the current economic climate.
The latest figures released by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) show a six percent increase in the number of fertility treatments undergone in the UK last year.
According to the HFEA’s annual report, approximately 45,200 women underwent fertility treatment in the UK in 2010, up from approximately 42,500 in 2009. The HFEA’s report also indicates that the number of fertility treatment cycles using donor eggs and donor sperm increased. The majority of women who underwent IVF treatment in the UK in 2010 were aged 37 years or under. The average age of women undergoing IVF was 35.
Sir Nicholas Wall, President of the Family Division gave judgment earlier this week awarding parental orders to a married British couple to secure the legal status of their two children in their care following an international surrogacy arrangement in India. The two children were conceived with two different Indian surrogate mothers using an anonymous egg donor and the intended father’s sperm.
The couple paid approximately £27,400 in medical and care costs, including sums of approximately £3,000 to each of the Indian surrogate mothers. The baby boy and girl were born within days of each other and are now just over a year old. Sir Nicholas ruled that the couple had acted in good faith and the amount paid to each surrogate mother was not so disproportionate that the grant of parental orders “would be an affront to public policy”. He authorised the payments made to the two Indian surrogate mothers, notwithstanding the public policy restriction against commercial surrogacy in the UK on the basis that it was in the children’s best interests to be brought up by their intended parents.
This legal judgment is the second to be published by the English court this year involving British couples who have entered into an international surrogacy arrangement in India. It follows a handful of other published cases involving British couples who have entered into international surrogacy arrangements in certain US surrogacy friendly states and the Ukraine and who successfully secured parental orders for their surrogate born children.
The first of three women who pleaded guilty to her role in an international baby-selling ring has been sentenced to one year in custody by a US federal judge according to a news report in Signon San Diego. The judge admonished her for preying on people’s desire to have children and said she had brought the legal profession into disrepute.
Former Maryland lawyer, Hilary Neiman, was also ordered by US District Judge Anthony Battaglia to forfeit $133,000 being the known profits that prosecutors said she made for her part in the fraud.
The sentence was more severe than the nine months home confinement both sides had agreed. The judge disagreed and sentenced her to five months in prison and a further seven months in home confinement following her guilty plea in April to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The judge said he was not convinced that she fully appreciated the seriousness of her involvement in the fraud.
Hilary Neiman was charged alongside a former prominent US surrogacy lawyer from Poway and a woman from Las Vegas for the fraud which profited from surrogacy laws in California. They recruited US surrogate mothers to travel to the Ukraine for IVF treatment and then found parents to “assume” fake surrogacy agreements for sums reported to cost around $100,000. The other two women are due to be sentenced in January 2012.
The fraud has sent shock waves through the international surrogacy and fertility law community and graphically demonstrates the need for anyone contemplating an international surrogacy arrangement to take great care and to obtain reputable expert legal help.