Should the Rights to IVF Treatment Be Extended?

If you are already aware of the new recommendations that have been put forward from NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) to extend the right to IVF fertility treatment to slightly older women, same-sex couples and other groups of people, you will have noticed just how heated this debate has become lately. It would seem that everyone holds a strong opinion on this topic, with very few people deciding to sit on the fence.

The main arguments against such an extension of rights to IVF treatment tend to focus on the fact that the NHS is already struggling to cope with its current levels of funding. Moreover, and this really is the biggest issue, when there are cancer patients being denied potentially life-extending treatments because they are viewed as being too expensive, how can NICE now come forward with recommendations for treatments that many people believe are not even truly health-related?

It is a fact that each cycle of IVF treatment costs the NHS thousands of pounds at a time; at present, some women between the current ages of 23 and 39 may be entitled to up to three treatment attempts and this really does get many peoples’ backs up. IVF treatment is not viewed as a health issue by many, and such people would maintain that if a couple cannot produce children naturally, they should be prepared to fund the treatment themselves – an excellent means-test as to whether they would be able to fund having a child in the first place.

NICE completely disagrees with this mentality, and they state that when a couple is infertile this is indeed a health-related issue. Further, many medical experts connected with this field of medicine draw our attention to the fact that a person who is not able to produce children through natural fertilisation will often suffer from severe depression, and this usually has extremely adverse implications in their lives. NICE states that the current costs for IVF treatment in the NHS is nothing like as high as some people may think.

However, it is not just the recommendation to raise the current age limit from 39 to 42 for women that seems to be causing controversy at the moment. The further proposals to include in the future gay couples, people with infectious diseases (e.g., HIV and Hepatitis B) and people who are physically unable to perform the act of sexual intercourse has meant that even more people have jumped on the bandwagon to criticise.

Of course, when it comes to same-sex couples, you can always bet your bottom dollar that religious groups will be the first to stir up as much homophobic hatred as possible – this is something that they always do and continue to be permitted to get away with! But it is not just the religious groups who are vehemently opposed to gay couples receiving IVF treatment on the NHS. This is definitely the most controversial of all of the recommendations being put forward by NICE.

Some people may be able to understand the concerns raised by allowing same-sex couples the right to IVF treatment, but actually, if you sit back and think about it, our law now clearly states that it is unlawful to treat same-sex couples in a different way from heterosexual couples. Therefore, this specific recommendation from NICE is just implementing the law as it currently stands.

As for extending the right to IVF treatment for people who have infectious diseases or who cannot conceive due to a physical disability, this may hopefully be a little more understandable for most people. When people with infectious diseases behave responsibly and do not put other peoples’ lives at risk, why shouldn’t they be able to produce a child (sans the disease, obviously)? This way the medical professionals would be able to screen the embryos and ensure that there is no chance of infection for the unborn child. Most people would argue that this is the only truly responsible way of achieving a child for people with infectious diseases.

At the end of the day, this issue is much the same as any other in society: you will never fully understand the implications involved in IVF treatment unless you have had to face them yourself or you are close to another person who has. Perhaps we would all do well to remember that there is a lot of anguish involved for people over these issues, and just try to show a little more in the way of compassion. Just remember that “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”