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Unequal Access Drives Fertility Tourism, Experts Say

ABC News,  Sept 14, 2010
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LONDON (Reuters) - Patients who cross borders in search of cheaper, more available fertility treatment can now choose from more than 100 countries but may be putting themselves and their babies at risk, experts said Tuesday.

The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) and the International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS) said a survey of reproductive services showed wide disparities between laws and practice in many countries. As a result, patients returning home may face legal or medical problems.

"Although in principle the care of foreign and local patients should essentially be the same and fit the best possible standards, there is evidence that it is not always so," ESHRE's Francoise Shenfield told reporters at a briefing.

A survey of 105 countries by the IFFS found that cultural, religious and social differences in attitudes to fertility treatments such as using donated eggs, sperm or embryos mean there are wide variations in the number of clinics that offer treatment, and the services they provide.

In vitro fertilization (IVF) involves removing eggs from a woman's ovaries and combining them with sperm in a lab. The strongest embryos are then implanted into a woman's womb. In theory, the eggs, sperm and embryos can all be donated.

The IFFS survey found there are over 500 fertility clinics in India and about 615 in Japan, but only 66 in Britain, 120 in Germany, 200 in Spain and around 360 in Italy.

IFFS education director Ian Cooke said discrepancies in access prompted patients to travel abroad for treatment, but could leave them in medical, financial or legal difficulties.

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