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WHO considers new definition of infertility that includes being single

24 October 2016

By Dr Rachel Brown

Appeared in BioNews 874

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is considering making changes to the definition of infertility to recognise that every individual has the 'right to reproduce'.

Currently the WHO defines infertility as a disability and 'a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse'.

However, it is considering expanding the definition to include those who are lacking, or unable to find, a sexual partner with whom to naturally conceive.

Speaking about the proposed new definition, Dr David Adamson, one of its authors, told the Express: '[It] is now written in such a way that it includes the rights of all individuals to have a family, and that includes single men, single women, gay men, gay women. It fundamentally alters who should be included in this group and who should have access to healthcare.'

Some have raised concerns that the new definition, if it comes into effect, could put pressure on the NHS to change its policy on who can access IVF treatment, thereby reducing access to treatment for couples with medical infertility.

Gareth Johnson MP, former chair of the All Parliamentary Group on Infertility, told The Telegraph: 'I'm the first to say you should have more availability of IVF to infertile couples but we need to ensure this whole subject retains credibility.' 

'[It] runs the risk of undermining the work NICE and others have done to ensure IVF treatment is made available for infertile couples when you get definitions off the mark like this. I think it's trying to put IVF into a box that it doesn't fit into, frankly.'

The new definitions will be sent to health ministers for consideration next year. A Department of Health spokesman has stated the NHS will be under no obligation to change its policies. Speaking to the The Telegraph, Professor Jonathan Montgomery of University College London also suggested that while the NHS may decide to review its policies, it was 'unlikely that it would adopt the WHO standards wholesale'.

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

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...

26 September 2016 - by Anest Mathias 
In April 2009 the parenthood provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 came into force. This governs parenthood following the use of donor gametes, including sperm...
12 September 2016 - by Sophie Perry 
A study of women opting to freeze their eggs for non-medical reasons has revealed that the most common motivation given was not yet finding the right partner...
11 July 2016 - by Rachel Siden 
Donor-conceived children born to single women are equally well adjusted as those from two-parent donor-conceived families, according to a recent UK study examining the views of single mothers and children aged between four and nine years old...
31 May 2016 - by Adem Muzaffer, Elizabeth Isaacs QC and Natalie Gamble 
The President of the High Court Family Division declared last week that UK surrogacy law was incompatible with the human rights of a single father and his child...
23 May 2016 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
A senior High Court judge has ruled that UK law discriminates against single parents with children born through surrogacy who are seeking parental orders, and that current UK law in this area runs against their human rights...

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