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Controversy over NHS funding of fertility treatment for transgender patients

15 August 2016

By Dr Mary Yarwood

Appeared in BioNews 864

Transgender men are being permitted to freeze their eggs at NHS-funded fertility clinics, prior to gender re-assignment.

This treatment allows individuals to store eggs for future use in IVF and surrogacy. However, critics say it is not the responsibility of the NHS to fund fertility treatment for transgender patients.

According to Dr James Barrett of the NHS Gender Identity Clinic in West London, at least three British transgender men may soon become parents through IVF treatment. He stated that, during the last 12 months, he had asked GPs to refer 50 female-to-male patients to have their eggs frozen and 100 male-to-female patients to have their sperm frozen. While some local NHS authorities agreed to fund this treatment immediately, others refused or took months to decide.

'As a matter of principle, anybody who loses their fertility as a result of standard NHS treatment should be able to preserve their fertility,' said Dr Barrett. The offer to preserve gametes is made routinely to those receiving chemotherapy treatment for cancer. Dr Barrett questioned, 'Why are people with cancer particularly magic and get this [NHS fertility treatment], and other people don't? Transgender patients want to live like normal people. They want what everybody else gets as a matter of course.'

However, Peter Bone, Conservative MP for Wellingborough, stated that it is a waste of NHS resources at a time when basic services are being rationed 'to fund fertility treatment so men can give birth'.

Transgender individuals can choose to use a surrogate, who is often the person's partner, to carry an embryo created from their frozen gametes. While the NHS may fund initial egg or sperm preservation, only individuals with fertility problems will receive NHS fertility treatment. A couple using a surrogate would likely have to pay for that treatment.

This consideration may be unnecessary in certain rare cases of female-to-male transgender patients who retain their female sexual organs. One example includes Thomas Beatie, a transgender man who stopped taking male hormones and conceived without IVF treatment in 2008.


16 January 2017 - by Lone Hørlyck 
A 20-year-old man, who was originally born female, is the first in the UK to become pregnant through sperm donation after the NHS refused to pay for egg freezing...
14 November 2016 - by Dr Geeta Nargund 
The World Health Organisation is considering a change to its definition of infertility to include single people and same-sex couples, but there may be a simpler, more common-sense way forward...
31 October 2016 - by Sarah Norcross 
The Progress Educational Trust's event on preserving fertility was held in Edinburgh on 25 October...
03 October 2016 - by Georgia Everett 
The United States has introduced legislation allowing the Department of Veteran Affairs to fund fertility treatment, including IVF, for veterans wounded in combat...

13 October 2014 - by Dr Amel Alghrani 
Following the first baby born after a womb transplant, the time has come to debate uterus transplantation. How will it be regulated in the UK and what social, legal and ethical issues does it raise?
15 May 2012 - by Dr Vardit Ravitsky and Professor David Heyd 
Sex reassignment is an intricate and sensitive physiological, psychological, and social process that usually entails the loss of reproductive capacity. Reproductive technology can prevent this loss, but should it be used for that purpose? A recent case in Israel raises this question...
18 April 2011 - by Daniel Malynn 
On Thursday 7 April 2011, Channel Four aired a documentary in its Body Shock series, titled 'Dad's having a baby'. The documentary follows the family life of Tom and Scott. Scott was born Jessica, but identified as male. He had a partial sex change, but remained legally female. Tom - born Laura - also identified as male, had a full sex change and became legally male. The couple met in California, married and adopted Logan aged 11 and Greg aged 13...

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