Threat to fertility help for single people dropped

THE DEPARTMENT of Health has backed down on its threat to stop people who are not in stable relationships receiving fertility treatment on the NHS, writes Celia Hall.

Yesterday Baroness Cumberlege, Under-Secretary of State for Health, said that doctors must decide who has the treatment. 'Unless Parliament approves, I doubt whether there will be a ban on fertility treatment for single people,' she told the Institute of Health Service Managers in London.

However, two months ago, Tom Sackville, also an Under-Secretary of State, made it clear that 'health authorities should think carefully before providing fertility treatment to people without a stable family background'. He said: 'If there is evidence that this is not being followed we will examine what further action needs to be taken.'

He was speaking after the row over the case of a woman who had given birth to sextuplets after NHS fertility treatments. It emerged that she was not married to the father and not living with him.

Lady Cumberlege's statement yesterday indicated a softer line. She said: 'Is it wrong to correct a defect in an unmarried person, perhaps a young girl, so she has the opportunity to have children in future? At the moment doctors are required to define a stable relationship before treatment is given. A marriage may be unstable and stability may be sought through having a family, which may not be the solution.'