Fertility specialists clash in court over teacher's claim for damages

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The Independent Online
TWO OF Britain's leading fertility specialists clashed at the High Court yesterday during a landmark case in which a woman is seeking damages to pay for a surrogate birth.

Patricia Briody, 46, is claiming compensation from St Helens & Knowsley Health Authority over a medical blunder which left her childless and barren when she was 20.

The authority was last year found to have been negligent and the High Court hearing is to determine the amount of damages. Ms Briody, who has found a woman in California willing to carry her child, will make history if she wins her claim for compensation for suffering and the means to start a new family.

Yesterday Lord Robert Winston, the fertility pioneer, told the court Ms Briody "has to come to terms with childlessness". Appearing for the health authority, Lord Winston said: "We shouldn't be trying to procure pregnancy at all costs... When you go on trying there's a risk of causing greater damage rather than less in terms of disappointment. The great majority of medical units have a view of increasing caution with patients as they get older."

But an expert witness for Ms Briody, Professor Ian Craft, director of the London Fertility Centre in Harley Street, said he would carry out the treatment if she succeeded. Prof Craft had examined Ms Briody and her new partner John Hill, conducted tests and sent the couple before the centre's review panel which approved them for surrogacy.

Professor Craft, whose centre treats women up to the age of 55, continued: "When someone over 50 has a natural childbirth everyone says it's wonderful, but if it is in-vitro it is somehow a disaster.

"I don't understand the hypocrisy of this. Ms Briody has been denied something for a long, long time. I believe she should be allowed to try it rather than not try it at all."

Prof Craft said her chances of success using her own eggs implanted in a surrogate mother after being fertilised with her partner's sperm were "about 1 per cent".

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