Posthumous fathers to gain legal recognition
Dr Kirsty Horsey
Progress Educational Trust
20 September 2003
Diane Blood has won her campaign to have her late husband's name on her children's birth certificates. Mrs Blood has been campaigning for legislation to be changed in the UK since her two children were born following the use of sperm taken from her husband after he died. Originally, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) refused her permission to use the sperm, but eventually allowed her to seek treatment in Belgium.
Currently, Liam and Joel's birth certificates show the father as 'unknown', because of a provision of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act 1990. The Government promised to amend the law retrospectively in August 2000, but the resultant Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Deceased Fathers) Bill ran out of parliamentary time in April 2001. Lawyers acting for Mrs Blood then issued a challenge to the birth registration rules under the Human Rights Act 1998.
In February 2003, the judge in the human rights case condemned the actions of the Government, which had fought Mrs Blood's claims for more than three years. The Government's lawyers then agreed to settle the human rights claim before it even went to court. They accepted that the law was 'incompatible' with Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) - the right to 'private and family life'. This meant that the Government was obliged to amend the law.
In March 2003, a private member's bill sponsored by Stephen McCabe MP, was given strong support by the Government. MPs approved the proposal to amend the HFE Act to recognise the biological fathers of all children conceived posthumously, making it compatible with the ECHR. Yesterday, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Deceased Fathers) Act was passed by the House of Lords and given Royal Assent. Mrs Blood was at Parliament to watch the legislation finally being passed. She said the family would have a party if the legislation was passed. 'It's the end of the story', she said, adding 'I am delighted and relieved that it's all over'.
© Copyright Progress Educational Trust
Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.
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