This policy document is part of a response submitted by the Progress Educational Trust (PET) to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's Consultation on its 8th Code of Practice and Revised Consent Forms.
Do you agree that the HFEA should presume that all fertility patients are 'supportive parents' unless there is reasonable cause for concern about significant risk to the child born following fertility treatment, or any other child?
Yes, it is right that in the absence of any reasonable cause for concern, all prospective parents should be presumed supportive.
In 8.9 of the its proposed new Code of Practice, the HFEA has attempted to define 'supportive parenting' as 'a sustained commitment to the health, wellbeing and development of the child'. We would strongly urge the HFEA to remove the word 'sustained' from this definition. A requirement for 'supportive' parenting to be 'sustained' could preclude a patient who has a serious medical condition or terminal illness from accessing treatment. It would also involve an unachievable requirement to accurately foresee a patient's future.
The sentence following the HFEA's definition of 'supportive parenting', which suggests that 'the centre may take account of wider family and social networks within which the child will be raised', should be removed from the Code of Practice altogether. Inclusion of this sentence may enable or even encourage discrimination against lesbian couples, single women, orphans and recent immigrants, who may not have a wider family or social network.
8.9 of the HFEA's proposed new Code of Practice concludes with the phrase 'may be at risk of significant harm or neglect'. This phrase is insufficiently precise, and could enable or even encourage the withholding of fertility services from patients for trivial reasons. We suggest that the phrase be replaced with 'may be at a serious risk of significant harm or neglect'.