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MICHIGAN RESIDENTS: Legislation Affecting Fertility Patients Up for Vote in State Senate

RESOLVE,  Oct 28, 2009

RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association has learned of a series of bills -- Senate Bill Nos. 647, 648, 649, 650, 651, and 652 and House Bill Nos. 5131, 5132, 5133, 5134, 5130, and 5129 (the “Bills”) – pending in the Michigan state legislature that threaten the interests of infertility patients. The Senate Bills are up for immediate hearing, and we urge residents of Michigan to let the legislators know that they oppose these Bills.

While the Bills purport to regulate stem cell research, they actually go much further: they mandate vast, new Governmental surveillance of infertility patients and their treatment. Under these bills, the Government would collect and publicize intimate information about infertility patients. The Bills would unreasonably burden the treating physicians and would certainly raise the cost of medical treatments to have a baby. They would also add so many conditions that few people could exercise their choice to donate surplus embryos to research. For these reasons, RESOLVE opposes these Bills and urges that they be rejected.

Act Now: Make Your Voice Heard!

Since the first in vitro fertilization (IVF) baby was born 31 years ago, assisted reproductive treatments including IVF have become part of mainstream medicine all over the world and are the standard of care for those unable for medical reasons to become parents via other means. These treatments have also brought into the world over one million happy, healthy children who otherwise would not exist. The Bills were not drafted for the protection of infertility patients or doctors, but rather for the purpose of interfering with infertility treatment -- even if the price is that many couples in Michigan will be denied the chance to have a family.

Unprecedented Governmental Surveillance of Infertility Patients and their Embryos

Senate Bill 649 may look on its face like mere informed consent and monitoring, but it actually goes much further: it authorizes the Government to collect and publicize private information about infertility patients and their embryos.

With SB 649, the Government of Michigan might as well be right in the examining room with the patient. It snoops into the intimate details of a patient’s treatments to have a baby in a way that is unprecedented in this country. This Bill would insert the Government at every step in patients’ private medical treatment, including --

  • Governmental tracking of every egg and embryo at every clinic
  • Reporting to the Government if a woman has a miscarriage
  • Reporting to the Government how a couple decides to handle their unused embryos (e.g., whether they donate them to research)

    This is unacceptable. The Government does not track the minutiae of treatment for people who suffer from other diseases. Infertility should not be singled out for probing Governmental intrusion into our private medical decisions.

    Collecting this data serves no medical value or medical function to infertility patients, who are the subject of the disclosure. Moreover, SB 649 provides that the data are going to be made public on an annual basis. What function does this serve, except to expose patients’ private information as fodder for people who oppose in vitro fertilization or oppose certain decisions about unused embryos? We infertility patients do not appreciate having our treatments and our children held up for public inspection and judgment as these bills would do.

    In fact, similar Governmental surveillance of fertility treatment, including tracking patients’ embryos, was considered by the President’s Council on Bioethics under President Bush in 2003. RESOLVE objected to the surveillance then and convinced the President’s Council that it was too extreme. The President’s Council ultimately rejected all proposals like those in SB 649.

    The Bills further legislate harsh penalties for doctors who reveal patients’ identities, however inadvertently: heavy fines and criminal penalties. This may look like a protection for patients, but it would actually hurt us. Will doctors choose to practice reproductive medicine in a state where disclosure of a patient’s name could lead to a prison sentence? We don’t think so. We are unaware of any other field of medicine where such criminal penalties loom over doctors’ heads. Why should that be the case for medicine dedicated to helping people have babies? SB 649, as well as the other bills listed above, would chill the practice of reproductive medicine and make it even less available for people struggling to have a baby.

    S.B. 649 also imposes a whole raft of new informed consent requirements on infertility clinics and physicians, and threatens heavy fines for any failure to obey. The new consent requirements have a pretty obvious agenda to discourage practices like embryo cryopreservation, even though it represents the standard of care in reproductive medicine and is a key to reducing the number of multiple births. The new “consents” would intrude into the private decision-making that patients and doctors have successfully engaged in since IVF began 31 years ago.

    Adding these new requirements – and making infractions punishable by heavy fines on doctors -- will probably discourage many doctors from practicing in Michigan and will necessarily raise the cost to obtain these life-giving, baby-making treatments. That means fewer loving couples will be able to have babies. We don't believe this is good for Michigan residents.

    We also oppose the Bills because they impose so many conditions before an embryo can be donated that they would effectively eliminate an important embryo disposition option for patients who have completed their family building. For example, Senate Bill 647 would require that the infertility specialist certify that an embryo had a less than 50% chance of “successful implantation and gestation” before it could be donated – but this is a judgment that can be very difficult to make. Alternatively, the Bills require proof that an embryo “would otherwise be discarded,” but that may not in fact be the second choice for couples who decide to donate to research.

    A study published in the peer-review journal, Science, indicated that 60 percent of couples would be likely to donate unused embryos for stem cell research. Because the above-listed bills would burden or impair the ability of patients in Michigan to choose the embryo disposition they find most moral or appropriate for their surplus embryos, we oppose these bills and urge that they be rejected.

    Unfairly Singling Out People With Infertility

    We contend that fertility patients should demand the same right to privacy as any other patient. We should not be singled out as undeserving of the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship.

    Visit RESOLVE for more information.

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