The Welfare Of The Child
A woman shall not be provided with treatment services unless account has been taken of the welfare of any child who may be born as a result of the treatment (including the need of that child for a father), and of any child who may be affected by the birth' (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 s.13(5))
As an Centre licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, we are required by law to satisfy ourselves that we know of no medical or social reason why a patient might not be suitable to be offered treatment, including anything that may adversely affect the welfare of any resulting child.
We make our enquiries by asking patients to complete a declaration form following which we may contact the patient's GP or the GP of both partners if they are different. In order to do this, the patient's consent must be obtained before approaching the GP(s) and refusal to give consent may be taken into account in considering whether or not to offer treatment. If our enquiries give cause for concern e.g. evidence that prospective parents have had children removed from their care or evidence of a previous relevant conviction, it may be necessary for us to make further enquiries through the Social Services Department, Probation Service or Police Department.
Treatment may be refused on clinical grounds if the Unit believes that it would not be in the best interests of any resulting or existing child to provide treatment.
Patients are given a fair opportunity to state their views before any decision is made and to meet any objection raised to providing them with treatment. In certain situations, a case may be referred to our Ethics Committee. This is an independent body of professional and lay people who meet regularly to advise the hospital. They have a responsibility to ensure that the patient's treatment, taking into account their circumstances, is ethically acceptable.
Parental responsibility is defined by the Children Act 1989 as 'all rights, duties and responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of the child has in relation to the child and his property'.
Section 2 of the act states 'Where a child's father and mother were married to each other at the time of his birth, they shall each have parental responsibility for the child'.
For children born before 1 December 2003, to unmarried parents, only the mother will have parental responsibility. In this situation patients are recommended to seek their own legal advice about the male partner's rights and responsibilities in relation to a child born as a result of treatment.
For children born after 1 December 2003, an unmarried father will automatically have parental responsibility for the child if he is named on the child's birth certificate, in accordance with the provisions of the Adoption and Children Act 2003.