A woman is hoping to give birth to her brother's baby through artificial insemination at a London clinic, in the first case of its kind in Europe.
The 47-year-old woman was given permission for the treatment by the regulatory body for IVF in Britain after a referral from a clinic in France, where there is a ban on infertility treatment for post-menopausal women. Because the prospective mother has reached the menopause, she will need a donor egg from someone younger to become pregnant. Samples of her brother's sperm have been donated and frozen.
The woman is being assessed at the Bridge Centre in London, one of Britain's leading fertility clinics. Her brother's sperm will be used to fertilise the donor egg at the London clinic and the resulting embryo will be implanted into his sister at a fertility centre.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has decided that the use of the donor egg means the birth would not be a matter of incest. Gedis Grudzinskas, the director, is reported to have said at the weekend: "I do not consider this case to be any different from a woman receiving an egg donated by her sister. It is not incest. The brother's sperm will be washed and prepared, and used to fertilise an egg which has come from a completely different anonymous source."
The patient was undergoing assessment at the Bridge Centre within the guidelines and code of practice of the HFEA, he said. She has been told by the HFEA that the treatment is permissible if satisfactory consideration has been given for the welfare of the unborn child.
An HFEA spokesman said it was fully satisfied that the welfare of the resulting child has been considered. There is, however, no statutory requirement for the child to be told that his or her uncle is also the father.The authority's decision to approve the procedure has led to division among specialists in the IVF field. Paul Serhal, of the assisted conception unit at University College Hospital, London, said "My gut feeling is that is wrong. It is meddling with the normal course of events."
The Bridge Centre said yesterday: "We regret the introduction of the term 'incest' to discussion of this case as emotive, legally and medically incorrect... The request we have received is to assist this patient, who wishes to use donor oocytes and the quarantine-free sperm of her brother in order for the child to be genetically part of her extended family."
Alan Milburn, the Secretary of State for Health, said: "I am not aware of this case. It would be pretty unwise, given the sensitivities of it, to comment."Reuse content