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Social and healthcare context of assisted conception

Our research programme is set in a fast moving, controversial area of science and medicine. Scientific advances have consequences and cannot be viewed in isolation from society. Moreover, society has a legitimate interest in the progress of science and public expenditure upon successful and unsuccessful fertility treatment.

The group makes progress, mindful of its impacts, and makes a special effort to engage with society and professional organisations to ensure best practice at all times. A number of advisory and professional consultancy roles contribute to this engagement, for example, participating in expert groups, such as National Institutes for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), Department of Health and European Union.

We also conduct collaborative research with social scientists, aimed at deepening understanding of patient and professional perspectives, with a view to improving treatment.

  • Sozou PD, Sheldon S, Hartshorne GM. (2009) Withdrawal of consent by sperm donors. BMJ. 2009 Oct 20;339:b4297. doi: 10.1136/bmj.b4297.
  • Sozou PD, Sheldon S, Hartshorne GM. (2010) Consent agreements for cryopreserved embryos: the case for choice. J Med Ethics. 2010 Apr;36(4):230-3. Free text
  • Gilbert E, Adams A, Mehanna H, Harrison B, Hartshorne GM. Who should be offered sperm banking for fertility preservation? A surey of UK oncologists and haematologists. Annals of Oncology, in press Free Text
  • Granne I, Child T, Hartshorne G M on behalf of the British Fertility Society (2008) Embryo Cryopreservation: Evidence for practice, Human Fertility: 11 (3); pp 159-72
  • Hartshorne G M, Baker H (2006) Fads & Foibles – but where is the evidence, Human Fertility: 9(1); pp 27-35
  • Hartshorne G M (2005) Challenges of the EU 'tissues & cells' Directive, Reproductive Biomedicine Online: 11(4); pp 404-407
  • Multidisciplinary Working Group convened by the British Fertility Society (2003) A strategy for fertility services for survivors of childhood cancer, Human Fertility: 6; A1-A40
  • Hartshorne G M, Lilford R L (2002) Different perspectives of patients & health care professionals on the potential benefits & risks of blastocyst culture & multiple embryo transfer, Human Reproduction: 17; pp 1023-1030 Free Text
  • Hartshorne G M (2003) Future regulation of fertility banking in the UK, Human Fertility: 6; pp 71-73

Men facing a diagnosis of cancer may or may not be invited to bank sperm. Since this is a service recommended by NIHCE, and should be available to all, we have explored the reasons for differences in practice through the use of video simulations.
(Please note: this is a simulated standardised consultation, used in research)


Top: immature human oocyte (germinal vesicle/diplotene stage) surrounded by somatic cumulus cells.




Bottom: the same oocyte after in vitro maturation, undergoing sperm injection by micromanipulation.

Frozen samples. Oocytes, sperm and embryos are often stored frozen in liquid nitrogen to enable them to be used at a later date. Strict regulations surround their storage. This leads to many interesting situations with ethical and social dimensions.

Group leader and key contact

Prof Geraldine Hartshorne Professorial Fellow