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IVF in the UK

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a blog by Liz

As you may know, I live in the UK. After I blogged last week about how I feared that my doctors weren’t taking my infertility seriously enough because they didn’t want to spend the money on me, Fertility Authority alerted me to an article in The Times. The article explained that of 13 European countries, Britain is down in 11th place for access to fertility treatment due to a lack of funding.

Essentially, although there is free health service in the UK through the National Health Service (NHS), each region has an element of choice as to how it spends its funding. Hence of the 161 trust areas, only nine offer three cycles of IVF, with the majority in England offering one (although several don’t offer any). In addition, each sets their own criteria for determining who is eligible for free treatment (e.g. must be under 40, not have any other children, etc.).

I could argue at length about the pro and cons of the ‘postcode lottery,’ that, despite paying the same in taxes, depending solely on where you live, you get different options/services. But that wasn’t that that irked me.

It was the comments.

For those of you who don’t know, The Times is Britain’s ‘quality’ newspaper, one read by the literate intelligencia. I’m telling you this because if you read the comments you might imagine it was a paper read by reactionary idiots. At the time of writing, half of the comments were along the lines of, “The NHS should be spending money on treating serious illness not dealing with infertility.”

I’m sure, however, none of the commenters would hesitate to say the NHS shouldn’t treat someone with testicular cancer. So where to draw the line? Would they endorse the idea of using NHS resources to help the same person preserve sperm so that post-treatment he has a shot at fathering a child? I assume not, but isn’t part of the treatment to enable suffers to resume as normal a life as possible? Shouldn’t that include fathering children?

And then there are the commenters who are against children full stop. Paul from London, for example:

”We are already overpopulated and people who want this treatment should pay for it themselves or adopt one of the very many children that are desperate for a loving family.”

So shouldn’t the natural argument follow that the NHS shouldn’t pay for treating women who conceive naturally, that is, if we have enough children regardless of how they are conceived? So let’s forget giving anyone who is pregnant their 12 and 20 week scan, their midwife, their option of home birth, their incubators, their over-night stays. Because, this is all expensive stuff and surely they should just be adopting too. Unless they can afford to go private.

But my favourite argument as to why the NHS should fund IVF came from another old favourite, state-funded institution, the BBC,

UK researchers calculated that, while it costs £13,000 to create a baby using IVF, each child contributes £147,000 in taxes and insurance to the UK economy!

Now, the BBC spends a rumoured 18 million quid a year of taxpayers’ money to pay Jonathan Ross to host his weekly BBC TV and radio shows. That’s 5,142 treatments (at an average of £3,500 per NHS-funded IVF treatment).

Which sounds like far better value for money to you?

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