The case of Beth Warren and her late husband Warren Brewer has again raised the issue of sperm storage consent.
Thomas Mathews, UK medical director at Bourn Hall Clinic, explains:
“There are two different consent forms, issued by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), available for a man to sign before freezing sperm.
“The first is called the HFEA GS (gamete storage) form. The standard duration of storage that a man consents to on this form is 10 years. He can, however, consent to his sperm to be stored for up to 55 years if he or someone to whom his sperm has been allocated (including his partner) is prematurely infertile or is likely to become prematurely infertile. A medical practitioner must certify in writing that the medical criteria have been met for such extended storage.
“The second is the HFEA MT form, which a man signs if he consents to the use of his sperm and embryos for his partner’s treatment and to the storage of these embryos. The standard duration of storage of embryos, and the extended duration of storage of embryos is exactly the same as for sperm.
“Nothing is implied when the original consent is signed. A man storing sperm has to specifically name the woman who is allowed to use his sperm, or any embryos created with his sperm, in the event of his death or mental incapacity.
“The duration of storage cannot be extended after his death. The name of the person who is allowed to use the sperm and the duration of storage can be amended by the man himself at any time while he is alive and of sound mind.
“Bourn Hall does occasionally have cases of posthumous use of sperm in IVF, but only when correct consent forms had been signed and witnessed earlier. We also have cases where such consents had not been signed, for example, when a man had got married after his sperm storage but did not come back to us to amend his consent forms. The new wife was unable to use the sperm that had been previously stored.”
The case of Beth Warren emphasised the importance of people considering and fully understanding the regulations at the time they are consenting. Bourn Hall Clinic would urge all patients, while they still have gametes in storage, to remember to contact their fertility clinic should their situation change.