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FERTILITY TREATMENT RAISES ETHICAL COMPLEXITIES

HEALTH Babies Q&A
29 May 2008 - 11:49
By Helen William, PA

A British couple are said to have abandoned their IVF twins girls
because they are the wrong sex, throwing the spotlight on the ethical
and legal complexities of fertility treatment.

Q: What is IVF?

A: In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is a technique where fertilisation of
the egg and sperm will take place outside the body.

This is where a woman's eggs are collected and fertilised with her
partner's sperm, or donated sperm, in a laboratory. The fertilised eggs
are then put into her womb to implant and she becomes pregnant. This
treatment is especially suitable for women with unexplained infertility,
blocked fallopian tubes, or where other treatments such as fertility
drugs have been unsuccessful. A clinic may recommend using donated eggs
for women who are over 40.

Q: Who regulates the IVF process?

A: The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) regulates and
oversees the use of gametes and embryos in fertility treatment, storage
and research. It also licences centres carrying out IVF, other assisted
conception procedures and human embryo research.

Q: The couple said to be involved in the abandoned twins case are aged
59 and 72. What are the age limits for treatment in the UK?

A: IVF treatment on the NHS is subject to guidelines from the National
Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which recommend a
mother judged eligible should be offered up to three cycles of IVF if
she is between 23 and 39 years old at the time of treatment.

There is no age limit set by law or the HFEA about the cut off for
fertility clinics to accept people for treatment. Upper age limits will
vary from clinic to clinic as they are allowed to set their own criteria
for whom they will treat.

Q: Are there any rules for choosing the sex of your baby when having
fertility treatment?

A: Sex selection of embryos for social reasons is illegal in the UK, and
surveys show that 80% of the public were opposed to the practice,
according to the HFEA.

Q: Are any checks made regarding the social welfare of children born
through fertility treatment?

A: John Paul Maytum, of the HFEA, said: "Under UK law, before anybody is
given treatment, there's a requirement that the doctor must take account
of the welfare of any children born.

"You're making sure that the children will go into a safe and loving
environment.

"If the doctor has any doubts about that then they shouldn't give
treatment - that's part of the British system."

Q: How much demand is there for IVF treatment?

A: About 1 in 7 people in the UK will have some problem conceiving.

This means that approximately 1.75 million couples of reproductive age -
or 3.5 million people in total have trouble conceiving, according to
HFEA figures.

Not everyone can get IVF on the NHS and about 80% of UK patients fund
their own treatment.

Q: How much does it cost?

A: The cost of an IVF cycles varies greatly in different clinics. It
could cost anywhere between GBP2,000 to GBP7,000 per cycles depending on
which clinic you go to. Would-be parents are advised to look out for any
extra or hidden costs.

Q: Are there any rules about travelling abroad for fertility treatment?

A: The HFEA, who only licences clinic in the UK, suggest you find out as
much as possible about any overseas clinic and the quality and safety of
care it provides.

Clinics abroad would be run under different regulatory standards which
can vary from country to country.

ends

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