Woman, 59, wanted second IVF baby
Dr Vivienne Raper
Progress Educational Trust20 January 2010
A 59-year-old British woman who conceived her two-year-old daughter by IVF (in vitro fertilisation) has faced criticism after saying she wants more children. Sue Tollefsen, from Essex, had told makers of a BBC documentary about older mothers to be shown later this month that she was '110 per cent' sure she wanted more treatment.
Last night, Mrs Tollefsen told The Telegraph newspaper: 'I feel as fit as a fiddle approaching 60 and I'm confident that I could have a child, despite my age. Obviously, I do worry that, if I have another child, when he or she reaches their 10th birthday, I will be 70'.
'However, my partner is 11 years younger than me, so I know that even if I am not around in the years to come, Nick would be and so our children would have their father to bring them up'.
Her daughter, Freya, was conceived in Russia after Mrs Tollefsen was refused treatment in the UK due to her age, according to the Mail on Sunday. The private London Women's Clinic also came under fire after Mrs Tollefsen visited it during the filming of 'Too Old To Be A Mum?' Some newspaper reports claimed that the fertility clinic offered Mrs Tollefsen treatment. But Dr Kamal Ahuja, the clinic's Scientific Director, says that they merely kept an open mind. 'We did agree to meet with the lady for the programme and said we have an upper age limit of 50, which we have exceeded on one or two occasions', he told BioNews. He added: 'We said we would be happy to talk to her, but we would have to spend a lot of time discussing the merits of the treatment'.
'We will not say a blanket no to someone because she has exceeded the age of 50. But we are talking from the point of view of women of 51 or 52. That said, we don't have a vast body of patients in that age group queuing up'.
But Mrs Tollefsen didn't come back after filming was over. 'We have had zero contact from her since the day she visited us', he said. She admitted to the Daily Mail yesterday that she had been asked to enquire about fertility treatment at UK clinics by the documentary team and was now tempted. She told the Mail that she plans to discuss it with her partner.
Mrs Tollefsen's attempts to conceive sparked off vigorous debate among fertility experts about whether there should be a fixed age limit to IVF with donated eggs. Tony Rutherford, president of the British Fertility Society, told The Times that, while his own clinic did not treat women over 46, he saw no need for an arbitrary cut-off: 'Society's view is that clinics can take a case-by-case approach. There aren't any right and wrong answers in this situation'.
Allan Pacey, a fertility expert at the University of Sheffield, is against legislation: 'Whatever age limit the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority or parliamentarians choose to make, there will always be cases from time to time where women are a few days older than whatever age is chosen and argue that the law has treated them unfairly', he told The Times.
Tory MP Ann Widdecombe, meanwhile, told The Sun that it set a 'dangerous precedent', adding that: 'This is very, very bad news and simply should not happen. Once you cross this line and let a 60-year-old have treatment, it's right to get Parliament involved'.
Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.