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On 12 October 2016 judgment was handed down in the widely-reported case of Jefferies v (1) BMI Healthcare Ltd, (2) Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority [2016] EWHC 2493 (Fam).

The Claimant’s husband had died unexpectedly in April 2014, just before the Claimant was due to commence a third round of IVF using stored embryos that had been created with their gametes. Under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, embryos can only be stored pursuant to the written, signed consent of both gamete providers. It subsequently emerged that although the Claimant’s husband had originally ticked a box on the relevant consent form permitting storage for 10 years, that tick had been crossed out, and another box permitting storage for 2 years ticked instead. The 2 year storage period had expired. The Claimant applied for a declaration from the court that it was lawful for the embryos to be stored for a period of 10 years, so that they could be used by the Claimant to have a child. The HFEA supported the Claimant’s application, on the basis that the Claimant’s husband had originally provided valid consent for a period of 10 years, and the subsequent amendment to 2 was invalid under the relevant statutory provisions. The Claimant’s application was successful.

Harry Adamson appeared as sole counsel for the HFEA. 

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