Senior judge criticises 'insensitive' handling of IVF case

By Jane Dreaper
Health correspondent

image copyrightSPL

A senior judge has strongly criticised an IVF clinic in London over errors with paperwork for a lesbian couple.

One of the women gave birth to twins after the treatment.

But her partner, who was the biological mother, had to go to court to be declared a legal parent - because the wrong forms were filled in at the clinic.

The case is among 15 similar ones brought to the High Court.

The president of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, said the clinic's lawyers had been "grossly insensitive" in their handling of the case.

He granted the woman - identified only as X - a declaration that she was a legal parent of the twins in February.

Giving his reasons for Wednesday's judgement, he said the women had been left "shocked and angry" when the clinic's error came to light.

Sir James said the women had paid more than £15,000 for their treatment with IVF Hammersmith Limited.

He described how the clinic's solicitors sent a "crass and insensitive" letter to the women, offering them £1,000 in compensation.


Sir James said in his ruling: "The offer of money, whatever the amount, was merely adding insult to injury.

"If an offer of financial compensation was appropriate at all, the idea that £1,000 began to approach a realistic figure was so wide of the mark as to be not merely insulting but almost offensively so.

"If ever there was a situation calling for empathy, understanding, humanity, compassion and, dare one say it, common decency, never mind sincere and unqualified apology, it is surely this."

The clinic's director had expressed regret in a witness statement and said there were now procedures to try and avoid any repeat of the situation.

Sir James described this as a "mealy-mouthed observation".

This case is among eight, involving a number of clinics, which have been resolved at the High Court, after the UK's fertility regulator identified the form-filling errors.

A further seven cases are still awaiting a final court hearing. It is thought as many as 85 couples could be affected in total.

A spokeswoman for IVF Hammersmith said: "We understand the stress the process and hearing has caused and we are sorry for this.

"We would like to reiterate that we have learned from this case.

"To safeguard all other patients receiving donor sperm, since 2013 we have introduced witnessing to the process, run dedicated staff training and operated continuous audits."

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