Infertility treatment free-for-all

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The Independent Online
No rigid rules or legal restrictions cover the type of infertility treatment Mandy Allwood appears to have received, medical organisations said yesterday - the decision over who should be treated lies with individual infertility specialists.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's rules cover only IVF and related treatments and sperm donation, not the more routine use of fertility drugs simply to stimulate the ovaries. The authority's code of practice lays emphasis on the welfare of the child but does not rule out the treatment of single women, stressing however that a woman's husband or partner will be the legal father. The General Medical Council would only act in cases of serious professional misconduct, and the British Medical Association yesterday declined to become involved, stating that any question of guidelines was a matter for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

The RCOG's guidelines state that treatment with infertility drugs "should be restricted to appropriately investigated couples" and that the "welfare of any resulting child from the treatment and of other existing children must be considered".

John Friend, a vice-president of the college, said: "We think couples should be counselled together and made aware of all the possible problems that multiple pregnancies can produce where this sort of induction of ovulation is taking place. It would be unusual not to have the male partner involved at some point."

But he told BBC Radio's World at One that the college "is not in the business of disciplining. We are trying to increase and raise standards all the time, but they are guidelines not protocols. There may be particular situations where they are not applicable ... but we hope our fellows and members have read them and do use them."

Mr Friend said, however, that he understood that Ms Allwood had been advised not to conceive during that particular monthly cycle, and, if she had taken that advice, "this would not have happened".