The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority – regulator for the fertility clinic sector –has revealed that 51 out of the 109 licensed clinics it inspected had irregularities in their records.
Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division of the High Court, described the news from the audit as “alarming”, adding that all matters where human embryos are concerned are strictly governed by the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.
A number of clinics were found to be missing crucial information from their records, while a common issue among half of those inspected was incorrect or incomplete forms.
In some cases, permission forms had only been signed and dated after an individual’s course of treatment had already begun.
Sir James said that a number of new cases had been filed in which several couples had asked for a “declaration of parentage”, following the audit’s results, amidst fears that they might not have legally become parents.
The partner of a woman receiving treatment at a clinic can only acquire legal status as a parent if written consent is in place before the treatment programme begins.
Consent is needed from both the woman and her partner, and both must also be offered counselling.
Sir James said: “This judgment relates to a number of cases where much joy but also, sadly, much misery has been caused by the medical brilliance, unhappily allied with the administrative incompetence, of various fertility clinics.”
“The cases I have before me are, there is every reason to fear, only the small tip of a much larger problem.”
More checks will be carried out at all licensed clinics following the revelation of administrative inadequacies.