Lack of fertility treatment law ‘unconscionable’

A leading medical law expert has described as “unconscionable” and “contrary to the best interests of children”, the Government’s failure to introduce legislation governing fertility treatments.

Dr Deirdre Madden, who has a PhD on the law relating to assisted reproduction, said government inaction was “exposing families to distress, uncertainty and protracted and expensive litigation”.

Dr Madden was a member of the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction (CAHR) who published a report eight years ago where the over- riding recommendation was that a new law was needed to establish a regulatory body to regulate AHR services in Ireland.

However, not one of the report’s 40 recommendations was implemented and it remains the case that there are no laws in Ireland governing a range of sensitive reproductive issues such as surrogacy, IVF treatment and embryonic stem cells. The issue came to the fore in a High Court case earlier this year when the genetic mother of twins challenged the chief registrar’s refusal to legally recognise her as the mother — her sister had acted as a surrogate mother — and won.

Dr Madden, who has a Master’s degree in surrogate motherhood, said a “consistent and logical legal definition of ‘mother’ and ‘father’ is needed.

Dr Madden said there needed to be a clear legislative policy on surrogacy, for arrangements carried out in the State and “transnational arrangements”.

In addition, egg and sperm donors’ legal rights “ought to be firmly established as well as the rights of children born through these technologies to identify their genetic parent”.

There was also a need to make legal provision for what happens to eggs, sperm or frozen embryos if a couple divorce or one of them dies.

Dr Madden said these were “all matters of fundamental principle which should not be developed in an ad hoc manner by court decisions”.

Dr Madden’s comments were made in advance of the annual conference of the National Infertility Support and Information Group (NISIG) which takes place in Thomond Park, Limerick, next Saturday.

The conference will call for urgent government action to implement the recommendations of the CAHR report.

Senior embryologist Declan Keane, director of the ReproMed clinic and independent ambassador to NISIG, said Irish fertility clinics “have been forced to self-regulate”.

Helen Browne, cofounder of NISIG, said that people should be able to access a list of registered infertility practitioners in Ireland; the services provided by each practitioner; and the outcome data on a single website.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to legislate to clarify the law surrounding AHR.

The Department of Health said yesterday that Health Minister Dr James Reilly “is currently considering proposals” related to the regulation of AHR.

*For more on NISIG log onto

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