Press releases and statements

HFEA decides not to appeal in the Warren case

Following the recent High Court ruling in favour of Mrs Elizabeth Warren, the HFEA has decided not to lodge an appeal against the decision. Mrs Warren has obtained a declaration from the High Court which allows for her husband’s sperm to remain in storage, so that she can have more time to think about her options for a family. After carefully considering not just the legal issues, but also the moral ones, we have come to the conclusion that an appeal is not the right approach.

Given that the judgment acknowledges that there is no written consent to store Mr Brewer’s sperm beyond 2015, we needed properly to consider the wider consequences for other patients, in particular those cases where there may be no consent to extended storage, and where the sperm provider’s wishes are less clear than Mr Brewer’s.

We have concluded that the likelihood of future problems is not strong enough to warrant appealing in this case. Mr Brewer’s wishes were clearly set out and if it weren’t for the clinic’s failings, Mrs Warren would not have needed to seek a declaration from the court.

Sally Cheshire, Interim Chair of the HFEA said today:

“We know that the extra few days of uncertainty have been stressful for Mrs Warren, but we have tried to minimise that stress by making a decision as quickly as possible. Seeking leave to appeal may have appeared unsympathetic to Mrs Warren’s very regrettable situation, but we owed it to future patients to think carefully about the implications of a complex legal judgment. We didn’t want Mrs Warren’s deserving and highly unusual case to pave the way for other cases where the wishes of the deceased patient are much less clear. Fortunately, we think we can guard against any such cases without having to appeal.”

We will be writing to all fertility clinics shortly to re-emphasise our existing guidance around the importance of written consent and of clinics’ crucial role in documenting patients’ wishes clearly.

Ends


Notes to editors

  • The HFEA is the independent regulator for IVF treatment and embryo research, set up in August 1991 following the introduction of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. Our role is to protect patients and the public interest, to drive improvement in the treatment and research sectors and to provide information to the public and policymakers.

For further information please contact the HFEA press office on 020 7291 8226 or email press.office@hfea.gov.uk

Page last updated: 13 March 2014