Charities warn of discrimination over access to fertility treatment

Parents with a history of mental illness could be denied IVF
treatment under new proposal, mental health campaigners have

A consultation launched by the Human Fertilisation and
Embryology Authority on protecting children born through fertility
treatment includes a proposal to get social services to assess
parents’ histories of mental illness.

Angela McNab, chief executive of the HFEA, said: “We know that
social workers have a wealth of experience in assessing child
protection issues and are likely to have valuable information in
cases such as where there areÉ mental health issues in the

The consultation cites “a history of mental illness” as a “risk
factor” that could be taken into account in the revised screening

But while mental health organisations said they accepted that
child protection considerations should be “vital” in the screening
of IVF parents, they warned that ethics decision-makers could be
swayed by prejudice around mental illness.

Sophie Corlett, director of policy at Mind, said: “We feel
strongly that adopting a risk factor based on whether or not the
parents had experienced mental health problems would be
discriminatory. Service users would be dismayed if they felt that
their chances of getting fertility treatment on the NHS were

Paul Corry, director of campaigns and communications for mental
health charity Rethink, called for “fair and equal” treatment by
IVF providers and adoption services.

He said: “People who would make good parents are sometimes
turned down for IVF or adoption because they are not getting the
right treatment and support for their mental health needs, but many
children are brought up very successfully by a parent with a mental

Corry added: “We have heard from people with mental illness who
were eventually allowed to have IVF treatment or to adopt after
challenging inappropriate decisions. They must have their cases
heard on a case-by-case basis like anyone else, not least so their
rights are respected under the Disability Discrimination Act

Screening for IVF treatment has long been a controversial issue,
with some campaigners arguing that any kind of welfare screening of
parents is “inappropriate”.

Consultation ends 7 April.


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