(Family Division, Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division, 12 October 2016)
Medical treatment – HFEA 1990 – Consent to storage of embryos – Husband died – Consent form amended to reduce consent to storage to 2 years but not signed – Application for a declaration that consent had been given for 10 years
The wife was granted a declaration that her deceased husband had provided proper consent to the storage of embryos for 10 years.
The husband and wife underwent two unsuccessful cycles of IVF treatment and were planning a third when the husband died suddenly. Prior to treatment they each signed consent forms authorising storage of embryos for 10 years. However, the clinic wrote to the wife after 2 years stating that the storage period was due to end and that the period could not be extended.
The wife sought a declaration that valid consent had been given for storage of embryos for 10 years. She submitted that the husband’s consent form had been subsequently amended to substitute a storage period of only 2 years, but that that amendment was not signed by the husband; that the amendment was therefore, as a matter of law, invalid; and that, accordingly, the consequence in law of what had happened was that the original consent for the period of 10 years remained.The declaration was granted. The Form MT as originally signed was a valid consent to storage of embryos for 10 years under the 1990 Act. The subsequent amendment to a period of 2 years was not signed, in stark contrast, to every other amendment on the Form MT. The absence of a signature was sufficient to invalidate the amendment, as it did not comply with para 1(1) of Sch 3