Renowned fertility doctor, Professor Robert Winston, has claimed fertility treatment in the UK is an unregulated ‘jungle’ and warned against bringing in three-parent families without more testing.
Quoted in the Independent, Prof. Winston accused the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the fertility watchdog, of incompetence and criticised private fertility clinics for peddling expensive, unproven techniques.
The Labour peer also claimed that fertility medicine in the UK was being driven by profit, and sometimes decreases the pregnancy rate for hopeful couples. He said, ‘It has become more and more commercial. IVF is being offered as a blanket treatment, when there are other things people could do that are more effective.’
The medical specialist said that ‘what is happening in the jungle is pretty frightening’, adding that prenatal genetic screening could lower the rate of conception and live births in couples ‘desperate’ to have a child.
He also warned against moves by the government to bring in mitochondrial transfer — three-parent embryos — by which an embryo is produced with genetic material from three parents.
Prof. Winston said, ‘The idea of replacing [defective] mitochondria with mitochondria that do not have the defect is a wholly good thing to do. The problem is that I do not believe there has been enough work done to make sure mitochondrial replacement is truly safe’.
At the beginning of June, the HFEA published its report on the third review into the safety and efficacy of techniques for mitochondrial replacement, recommending that they be considered ‘not unsafe’ for use on a ‘specific and defined group of patients’.