Woman divorces husband; fakes his signature for IVF; him, and screws him over for support.
Few such messages — usually a cause for celebration and delight — can have provoked such consternation and disbelief. The fact that the mother-to-be and the baby’s father — neither of whom can be identified for legal reasons — had split up nine months earlier was only part of the problem.
More extraordinary and disquieting was the way in which the baby had been conceived. ‘Through deceit, perjury and negligence,’ says her father today, ‘within a system of unregulated clinics that operate like the Wild West’.
On receiving the text from his ex — with whom he already had a son by IVF — he says he knew instantly that she had been involved in some form of chicanery to become pregnant for a second time. ‘My immediate thought was that she had retrieved a frozen embryo that had been stored at the IVF clinic and fertilised with my sperm, then tricked doctors that I had given my consent for it to be implanted,’ he says.
The man, who has his own design and marketing business, had his signature forged and his ex-partner was able to conceive a child using his sperm +3
The man, who has his own design and marketing business, had his signature forged and his ex-partner was able to conceive a child using his sperm
His assessment could not have been more accurate, for it later emerged that his former partner had forged his signature on a consent form, duping doctors at the clinic, IVF Hammersmith, in West London, into believing he had agreed to the impregnation.
The man, who has his own design and marketing business, is affluent, mid-40s, tanned from a recent holiday and dressed in expensive designer casuals.
When we meet in a London hotel he makes an extraordinary admission about the daughter, born in July 2011 and now aged seven, whom he fathered without his knowledge or consent.
‘She is beautiful, charming; lovely but the truth is, I don’t have a profound or special attachment to her and because of that I feel guilty,’ he says. ‘She’s part of my family, but different and that’s extremely difficult to deal with. She’s a constant reminder of the pain the unplanned event of her birth has brought to me. It’s always there.’
The father, who has since married and had a third child with his wife, admits: ‘I don’t feel the same way about my daughter as I do about my other children. There’s an emotional blockage.
‘You may ask why I support her financially, why I have anything to do with her. I am a trustee of a charity that helps abandoned children and my duty is to do my best for her. I know the damage it does when estranged parents look away.’
He measures his words carefully, weighing the significance of each one; at times seeming to hold back tears. He and the little girl’s mother, a teacher, are intelligent, articulate and well-educated. They met in 2005 and although they quickly realised they were incompatible, decided a child might provide the glue to hold the relationship together.
‘We aren’t the first couple to make that mistake and we won’t be the last,’ he says ruefully.
However, the woman was unable to conceive naturally and they had a baby boy by IVF. ‘But the birth was so awful she suffered from post-traumatic stress,’ he recalls. ‘And the relationship fell apart.’
He says he felt ‘shock, desperation and panic’, when he learned she was pregnant for a second time.
‘My ex-partner was vulnerable because she was desperate to have a child, which pushed her over the edge of emotional stability and rational thought and made her do something completely crazy.
‘She is a victim in this case as well as me because the clinic, as well as failing to check that I had given my informed consent, also exploited her vulnerability.’
The father duly sued IVF Hammersmith for the six-figure cost of his daughter’s upbringing — to include the fees for her private schooling, skiing holidays and a nanny — but Appeal Court judges last month ruled that it was ‘morally unacceptable’ to regard a child, who should be viewed as a blessing, as a ‘financial liability’, and he will not receive a penny.
However, he intends to appeal again, to the Supreme Court, not just to fund his daughter’s upbringing, but also to try to retrieve some of his £750,000 court costs, which he re-mortgaged his house to pay.
Meanwhile, he says, he feels vindicated because the court case has exposed the clinic’s malpractice and the failures of its regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).
‘It has shone a light on the incompetence of the clinic which has been found wanting,’ he says.
‘It was in breach of its contract in not seeking my consent for the embryo to be implanted.
‘These clinics are operating like the Wild West. This notion that there is a policeman — the HFEA — looking out for the interests of the consumer, is a complete fiction.
‘The clinic has not been sanctioned. The HFEA has asked it to do nothing. Yet this is a major incident. It is obliged to investigate it and report on it, but it has done neither.
‘It has acted as if nothing has happened. The HFEA does not have a consumer champion on its board. Its members have an interest in the industry but not in protecting the public.
‘If it had taken my case seriously I wouldn’t have needed to go to court. As it is, the clinic flouted medical ethics and carried out a procedure without my consent, and such an injustice could not go unheard.’
How was such an abject procedural failure allowed to happen?
The story began when the couple embarked on IVF to have a child together. ‘First, we registered with the NHS, but the process is painfully slow, so while we were waiting we had six attempts at private clinics, all of which failed,’ he recalls.
‘Every round cost between £3,000 and £4,000 and we were sold a lot of extras: scans, blood tests, reviews, all of which were irrelevant and unnecessary — which we did not realise until eventually our no-frills NHS round came up.’
IVF Hammersmith was then acting as an agent for the NHS to provide this service, and although the publicly-funded attempt was basic, unlike the private procedures, it was successful: the couple had a son in November 2008.
After the birth, IVF Hammersmith, ‘flipped into sales mode,’ says the father. ‘They offered to freeze five of our embryos should we wish to use them at a later date.’
The clinic charged £275 — to be collected annually — for the service, and the father says, ‘I felt confident that the embryos would not be used without the informed consent of both me and the mother.