Letter: The Safety of IVF

Article excerpt

Sir: We welcome the news that the Medical Research Council and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority have established a working group, chaired by Professor Catherine Peckham, to review the current knowledge of IVF and its possible health effects. The working group will advise on whether further research is necessary, and is expected to report in 2003 ("New enquiry to check the health of IVF babies", 22 October). As most of the techniques in use have not been tested sufficiently in animals, clinical IVF treatment must still be regarded as a worldwide experiment being conducted on humans.

However, your article is misleading in that it draws attention to embryo freezing in particular as a high risk and unnecessary procedure. You cite new but as yet unpublished evidence from Professor Lord Winston that embryo freezing disrupts gene expression in embryos. This information has been available for several years but there is no evidence that it leads to problems in the offspring. In fact, such changes in gene expression are seen in many IVF embryos, not just those frozen and thawed. Although all babies born from IVF require long-term follow-up, existing studies have not shown any increase in abnormalities after embryo freezing. …