UK Government

Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority: Twenty years since Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act receives Royal Assent

Press Release   •   Nov 01, 2010 11:40 GMT

Today is the twentieth anniversary of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (HFE Act), which created the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) becoming law.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act was drafted following the publication of a White Paper: 'Human Fertilisation and Embryology: A Framework for Legislation' in 1987. This cornerstone piece of legislation finally received Royal Assent on 1 November, 1990.

Since then there have been huge advances in the field of assisted reproduction giving hope to many thousands of people otherwise unable to have children.

* In 1992 the first successful birth following pre-implantation genetic diagnosis
* 2001 saw the birth of the first baby from a frozen donated egg.
* 2002 saw the first child to be born to a mother who had her own eggs frozen.
* 2005 the law was changed removing donor anonymity meaning donor conceived children born after that date could find out identifying information about their donor when they reach 18yrs old.

In the last twenty years more than 200,000 babies have been born as a result of IVF treatment to those who would otherwise not been able to have a children.

There have been huge scientific advances in fertility treatment and the HFEA has been at the heart of the licensing process as well as ensuring research is both ethical and of potential benefit to patients. Research has allowed for the screening of diseases such as breast cancer, cystic fibrosis and Huntingtons disease.

Today there are 138 licensed centres and research establishments across the UK.

Professor Lisa Jardine, Chair of the HFEA said:

'In the last twenty years the world of fertility treatment has improved enormously and tens of thousands of families have benefited directly as a result of IVF. Many of the issues that were debated twenty years ago such as the treatment of older women, compensation for donors and the risks of multiple births are still relevant today. The HFEA is the public body that the public looks to to regulate these highly charged issues.'


Notes to editors

* The HFEA is the independent regulator for IVF treatment and embryo research. Our role is to protect patients and the public interest, to drive improvement in the treatment and research sectors and to provide information to the public and policymakers about treatment and research.
* The HFEA was set up in August 1991 as part of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. The HFEA's principal tasks are to license and monitor clinics that carry out in vitro fertilisation (IVF), artificial insemination (AI) and human embryo research. The HFEA also regulates the storage of gametes (eggs and sperm) and embryos. See for further details.

For further information please contact the HFEA press office on 020 7291 8226 or


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