Government bows to pressure on embryo storage rules

We welcome the Department of Health’s announcement today that embryos which exceed their five year storage period before 1 October 2009 will not now have to be destroyed (article in the Times today).

We have been in contact with the Department of Health on this issue for some time, arguing the case for various couples who are fighting to save their embryos because they were stored too early to benefit from new rules coming into force on 1 October. These couples include Melanie and Robert Gladwin from Gloucester, who stored embryos in anticipation of Melanie’s treatment for cancer in 2003 in order to preserve their chance of having a family, but who were told their embryos would be allowed to perish because their storage period expires before 1 October. Robert and Melanie’s story was reported in the Daily Telegraph on 7 August and is covered again today in response to the government’s announcement. Robert and Melanie, who have been fighting to save their embryos, have won political support for their campaign and yesterday were invited to present a petition at 10 Downing Street. They are not the only couple to fall into this gap in the law. Michelle Hickman has also been a vocal campaigner on this issue for several years, and there may be many other couples who are affected.

In response to today’s decision that such ‘out of time’ embryos can now be stored for at least ten years, Melanie Gladwin has said: “We are ecstatic at the news from the Department of Health. It has been a tiresome and stressful time and are extremely thankful they have been able to consider our case so promptly. We eagerly await further news that we can keep our embryos for the full period. We hope this announcement brings joy to the other couples and families affected like us.”

Natalie Gamble, representing Robert and Melanie, says: “While the announcement today gives much needed hope to men and women whose precious embryos have already reached the end of their five year storage term, we need to make sure that the proposed changes go far enough to give the time needed. For young women who suffer infertility prematurely, these embryos in storage often represent their last chance of having a child of their own. We will be looking very closely at the proposals to confirm that couples like Robert and Melanie will be able to extend their chance of having a much-wanted child for as long as possible, and not just for a few more years.”

Further note to this blog on 11 September 2009:

We are also now delighted to report that the Department of Health has now confirmed that, after the publication of the Minister’s Order, additional special regulations will be made to ensure that ‘out of time’ embryos like Robert and Melanie’s will be able to be stored, not just for ten years, but for the full extended period normally allowed for these kinds of medical situations.

More information on embryo storage law is on our website.

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