Changes to the law came into force on 1 July 2022 for people trying to preserve their fertility, so as to give them more time to make important decisions.
Fertility patients can store their eggs, sperm and embryos for their own treatment for up to 55 years, provided that they renew their consent every 10 years. Where patients provide consent for their gametes or embryos to be used in the event of their death, these can remain in storage for up to 10 years from the date of death.
In relation to those people donating their sperm or eggs to others for treatment, they can store these for up to 55 years without reconsenting every 10 years. It is thought that this should provide greater accessibility to those who need donated material.
There is now much work for fertility clinics to do. They have been asked by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to audit all their stored material, so that they can accurately assess the consent status of it.
It is highly important that patients are provided with the correct information to enable them to make appropriate decisions regarding the continued storage or otherwise of their gametes or embryos.
For those patients who attempted to preserve their fertility before having cancer treatment or hormone therapy for example, they now fall into the same new rules, which means they must reconsent to the storage every decade.
This is something which was not previously required. It is therefore vital that such patients ensure their fertility clinic have their current contact details and make every effort to be aware of the dates relevant to their material being stored.
If there is any doubt about the storage period, or fertility patients are concerned that they are being given incorrect information about the status of their material, it is highly advisable to seek legal advice as quickly as possible.