Leading article: Brave new world

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High yuk factor or moving story of parental love? The case of Patricia Rashbrook and John Farrant, aged 62 and 60, who celebrated the birth of their son JJ on the front page of a national newspaper yesterday, has divided opinion.

There is an instinctive tendency to recoil from some of the advances of reproductive technology. That tendency is enshrined in law in this country, where payment for egg donors is not allowed, thereby forcing people who are too old to qualify for NHS treatment to go abroad.

The Farrants went to eastern Europe. But should the law seek to discourage - however ineffectively - older women from having IVF babies? We do not think so. Parliament would not dream of banning men from becoming fathers beyond a certain age. Whatever anyone's reservations about the desirability of having a child at the age of 62, they certainly do not justify an automatic legal presumption against it.

On the contrary, a couple's intense longing for a child, which is sometimes portrayed as unnatural, offers that child the prospect of a better start in life than that of many children born to parents unready or unwilling to assume their responsibilities.

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