Monday, October 20, 2008

IVF doctor: Patients view him with awe but rivals are less impressed

IVF doctor: Patients view him with awe but rivals are less impressed

He is Britain's most successful IVF doctor with a live birth rate twice the national average and a fortune founded on enabling women to have children, sometimes after years of fruitless treatment in other clinics.
But Mohammed Taranissi is also one of the most controversial, constantly pushing against the rules for fertility treatment and provoking the wrath of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). His rows with the regulator may have undermined his reputation but some, such as IVF pioneer Lord Winston, believe the publicity they have attracted has raised his profile.
Creating babies is as close as most doctors come to playing God and the Egypt-born specialist is viewed by his patients, many desperate, with something close to awe. He has regularly topped the league table of IVF clinics with a live birth rate of 60.7 per cent for women under 35 in 2007, 17 per cent ahead of his nearest rival.
What is his secret? Dr Taranissi says it is about being on duty 24 hours a day so each stage of the IVF process can be carried out at the right time. Rivals claim his results are achieved by cherry-picking the healthiest patients, a charge he rejects.
A more substantive criticism is that he transfers multiple embryos to improve the chances of at least one implanting in the womb. His two London clinics had the third and fourth-highest multiple birth rates at 33 and 32 per cent.
A twin or triplet birth increases risks for mother and babies as well as imposing a burden on the parents and the HFEA has set targets to reduce it. But Dr Taranissi argues this decision should be left to clinicians and their patients.
IVF treatment attracts some of the biggest personalities in medicine and brings huge rewards – Dr Taranissi's fortune was once estimated at £38m.
The HFEA has stumbled badly in its dealings with Dr Taranissi. Two years ago, it ordered a police raid on one of his clinics which he was suspected of operating without a licence – while at the same time contributing to a BBC Panorama investigation of the doctor screened on the day as the raids.
The incident drew charges of "trial by television" and led Dr Taranissi to launch a libel action against the BBC and a court action against the HFEA. The latter was settled last week with the withdrawal of all charges against him. His latest clash with the authorities before the GMC is being keenly watched.


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