Samantha Little, partner in our children and education team, represented seven children in a High Court case following administrative errors made by three fertility clinics in the taking and recording of consent to parenthood. As a result of the errors, a number of parents had been told by the clinics, some time after the child’s birth, that they were not in fact the legal parent of the child and that they would have to apply for adoption. The President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, gave his judgment on 11 September 2015 making declarations of parentage in all the cases, as recommended by the Children’s Guardian on behalf of the seven children, through Samantha Little, acting as their solicitor. As a result of this judgment, the parents no longer have to apply for adoption orders.
In his judgment, the President was critical of the clinics involved, and his opening remarks neatly summarise the issues in the case.
"This judgment relates to a number of cases where much joy but also, sadly, much misery has been caused by the medical brilliance, unhappily allied with the administrative incompetence, of various fertility clinics. The cases I have before me are, there is every reason to fear, only the small tip of a much larger problem".
He referred in his judgment to the serious and systemic failings that had occurred in the clinics. An audit of 109 clinics following another judgment in a similar case in 2013 lead to the discovery that 51 clinics had discovered ‘anomalies’ in their records concerning the giving or taking of consent and the provision of counselling.
His Judgment referred to the evidence he had heard, which he described as being some of the “most powerful, the most moving and the most emotionally challenging I have ever heard as a judge” and told of the contrast of emotions experienced by the families when they were told that the legal issues had not been properly dealt with.
The full judgment can be found here.
It is known that there are a number of other families in similar circumstances who may not yet have come forward to discuss their legal options and consider how to remedy the errors that have arisen, which are significant. Those families need to be aware of this Judgment and its implications.
The children and education team is able to advise parents on the issues which arise when seeking to have fertility treatment, and in cases like this, where it has gone wrong.
To find out more about our children and education work, visit our service page.
If you would like to speak to someone in the team, regarding a similar issue, please contact Samantha Little on 020 8541 2025 or email her on firstname.lastname@example.org.