Clinic to contest rule that woman who had eggs frozen cannot try to become pregnant

Jermey Laurance,Health Editor
Wednesday 21 September 2011 15:29

A woman who had her eggs frozen before she underwent treatment for cancer has been forbidden from using them to try for a baby.

A woman who had her eggs frozen before she underwent treatment for cancer has been forbidden from using them to try for a baby.

Carolyn Neill, 34, from Belfast, is to be the subject of an appeal to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to change the regulations governing fertility clinics which allow the freezing of eggs but not their thawing and use in fertility treatment.

Ms Neill was told by doctors that radiotherapy for her cancer was almost certain to render her infertile. As she did not have a partner she opted to store some unfertilised eggs for future use. Now she has been declared cancer free she wants to start a family but has been told she is not allowed to use the eggs until more research has been done to prove the procedure is safe.

Her eggs are stored in liquid nitrogen at the Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre in London, which wasthe first British clinic granted a licence to store frozen eggs, in October 1998.

The HFEA declared then that it would not allow clinics to thaw and fertilise eggs until it was convinced the procedure was safe. Although embryos and sperm have been frozen and stored for many years, there is less experience with eggs. So as not to disadvantage women having cancer treatment, the authority allowed eggs to be frozen on the understanding that they could be used for fertility treatment only when the necessary evidence of safety was established.

The procedure is permitted in Italy and the US where it has been carried out a few dozen times but it has resulted in less than 10 births.

The Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre and its director, Dr Mohammed Taranissi, have launched an appeal to remove this restriction and allow Ms Neill to have treatment. The appeal is to be heard by an expert committee of the HFEA in January. Ms Neill told the BBC: "It should be down to Dr Taranissi and myself to discuss what we should do, not the Government to have a law that is cut and dried. If you are allowed to do one stage, why not the end stage?"

Ruth Deech, chairwoman of the HFEA, said: "We don't yet have the scientific evidence that the use of these thawed eggs is safe. We will not allow women to be experimented on. We are worried that any child born from that treatment might not be healthy. We all remember Thalidomide."

The freezing service at Dr Taranissi's clinic costs £2,800 a year. The terms of the licence prohibit the thawing of the eggs or their fertilisation. Last night Dr Taranissi said: "The only reason to freeze eggs is for use in future treatment. The research [showing it is safe] has been available all the time."

He added that if he lost the appeal he would challenge the authority in the courts.

The Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre has the highest success rate in the UK for live births following IVF treatment.

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