New law extends embryo, sperm and egg freezing to 55 years

Fertility patients will now be able to store their frozen embryos, sperm and eggs for up to 55 years following a change in the law (1 July 2022). Previously storage was for just ten years.

The law also clarifies the situation if a partner dies. If the patient gives consent to sperm, eggs or embryos being used in the event of their death, these gametes and embryos can remain in storage and be used for treatment up to 10 years from the date they pass away.

Donated sperm and eggs can also be frozen and stored for 55 years without the need to renew consent.

Implications for egg freezing

Dr Mike Macnamee, CEO of Bourn Hall, says that greater clarity is welcomed, particularly for those who have frozen eggs and sperm for fertility preservation: “Patients freeze eggs and sperm for many reasons, to preserve their fertility if they are about to undergo cancer treatment or hormone therapy for example. These life events can happen when you are in your teens or early twenties and the ten year window was not sufficient.

“Patients going through IVF treatment also store embryos for future treatment or for siblings. Deciding what to do with those embryos, whether to try again, give them to another couple or donate to valuable research, is a big decision and people need time to consider their options. The ten year deadline put an unnecessary stress on those patients.

“The change in the law will have implications for those who have gametes and embryos in storage and will require new and revised consent forms, and we are already working with the HFEA to put those in place.”

HFEA to review consents

Rachel Cutting, the HFEA’s Director for Compliance and Information, said:

“The change in law means that all patients have equal opportunity to store eggs, sperm or embryos for up to 55 years, providing consent is given every ten years. The new law also enables greater accessibility for patients requiring donor sperm and eggs as this material now, too, is available for up to 55 years providing consent is in place.

“Clinics have until 30 June 2023 to contact patients who have eggs, sperm or embryos in storage that are due to expire within the next two years. Consents using the updated or new forms must be in place for patients wishing to store for a further ten years by June 2024.

“For patients who have tried to preserve their fertility through sperm and egg freezing it’s important they keep their contact details up to date so that clinics can re-consent every 10 years. We’ll be working with clinics and key patient facing organisations to ensure these patient groups are aware this important change.”

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More information about fertility preservation at Bourn Hall

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