‘Ruling will not result in mass destruction of embryos’

A SUPREME Court ruling that frozen embryos do not have an automatic right to life will not lead to wholesale destruction of stored embryos, according to the fertility clinic at the centre of the ruling.

Dr David Walsh, of the Sims Clinic in Dublin, said they would continue to store the embryos until the Government enacts legislation to regulate assisted human reproduction (AHR).

This remains the clinic’s position despite a recent decision by the Irish Medical Council (IMC) to alter a guideline on fertility treatment dropping a prohibition on the deliberate destruction of embryos.

Yesterday, Dr Walsh said it was “reasonable to expect” that the Government would legislate for AHR next year. The Government has been widely criticised for failing to legislate in the area of AHR despite a recommendation to do so four years ago by the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction.

Dr Walsh said there were still a number of issues outstanding after the Supreme Court ruling, including whether its decision would be appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal by 43-year- old mother-of-two Mary Roche to allow her use frozen embryos — stored at the Sims Clinic where she underwent fertility treatment — for the purpose of pregnancy against the wishes of her estranged husband.

Dr Walsh said that “in reality” they could consent to disposal of embryos but they would “like more clarity”.

In relation to surplus embryos not implanted in the womb, Dr Walsh said a study Sims had done had shown this occurred in less than 0.5% of cases.

Separately, the medical director of the Kilkenny Clinic and member of the Irish Fertility Society, Dr Martine Millet-Johnson said all Irish fertility clinics have embryos in long-term storage. “There is no legislation in the area so it is up to each clinic to make an agreement with patients. Many will review storage after five years but most patients will use the spare embryos in that time,” she said.

She said Irish clinics do not destroy embryos or use them in research.


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