This week's BioNews reports on the trial of Paul Fielding, the British embryologist who has been found guilty of deceiving IVF patients over their frozen embryos. It's an unfortunate development that comes at the end of a difficult year in which bad news stories have been a feature of the British media.
One battle ground this year has been the courtroom. In August, two women launched a legal battle to gain access to their frozen embryos to try for a baby without the consent of their ex-partners. At the same time, the Whitaker family were refused access to embryo tissue typing treatment and threatened to launch a legal challenge to the decision. Then, in November, Dame Butler-Sloss announced in the High Court that the black twins born to white parents after an IVF clinic mix-up were indeed the legal children of the white couple. Finally, last week, came news that embryologist Paul Fielding is to face a custodial sentence following his deceptions.
In the meantime, whilst all this has been going on in the courtrooms and in the media, thousands of people have been quietly embarking upon fertility treatment and many of them have taken home the baby of their dreams. If this year has been anything like last year (for which the latest figures are available), nearly 25,000 people have started treatment and over 6000 babies have been born. The success rate of IVF treatment is now around 24 percent and is improving steadily each year.
On the research front, scientists have been working behind the scenes to improve existing treatments and to develop new ones. In October came the announcement of the arrival of little Emily Perry, the first British baby to be born after frozen storage of a woman's own eggs.
It hasn't been a great public relations year for IVF and embryology - this much is true. But inevitably, it is the bad news stories, rather than the good ones, which attract our attention. It's worth remembering that whilst mistakes and ownership conflicts dominate the headlines, the everyday business of helping infertile couples try for a much-wanted baby goes on unnoticed.