Page URL:

Transgender fertility rights case against NHS dropped

8 April 2019
Appeared in BioNews 994

A legal dispute over access to NHS fertility services for transgender people has been resolved after new guidelines were issued.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) initiated legal proceedings against NHS England in August 2018, claiming that the NHS's refusal to offer gamete storage as a blanket policy violated the Equality Act 2006, which protects transgender people from discrimination (see BioNews 969).

'A choice between treatment for gender dysphoria and the chance to start a family is not a real choice,' said EHRC chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath, at the time. 

The treatments sometimes used in transitioning can affect a person's fertility. As in cancer patients, before commencing treatment, eggs or sperm can be collected and frozen for later use in IVF, giving patients a chance to have biologically related children in future. 

In England, decisions about funding fertility treatments are taken by local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), meaning that the same treatments may be available to NHS patients in some areas but not others. This includes treatment for infertile couples, as well as fertility preservation. While the NHS widely offers gamete storage for cancer patients (where appropriate), patients looking to transition are not always offered these services. Many CCGs have also been cutting back on funding fertility services for infertile couples in recent years (see BioNews 983 and 969). 

The EHRC had called for the NHS to enforce a consistent standard of fertility service for transgender people, but will now drop the case following NHS England's decision to issue strict guidelines to all CCGs, saying that 'strong justification' needs to be shown by any CCG refusing to offer fertility preservation to trans patients, and that refusals not meeting this standard may be challenged in court. 

NHS England has expressed content with the final outcome, with a spokesperson stating: 'We are pleased to see that the Equality and Human Rights Commission has abandoned its claim against the NHS, which was without merit.'

However, Dr Jane Hamlin, president of trans support group The Beaumont Society, expressed disappointment that the case was being dropped: 'Trans people do not ask for special treatment… we just want to experience family life like our friends and relatives.'

Equal rights transgender fertility case against NHS abandoned
Daily Telegraph |  30 March 2019
NHS Revise Guidance On Transgender Fertility Services After Legal Case Dropped
RightsInfo |  1 April 2019
Transgender fertility rules updated by NHS
The Guardian |  31 March 2019
1 October 2018 - by Georgia Everett 
The Equality and Human Rights Commission is preparing to sue NHS England over failing to offer fertility preservation services to transgender patients...
13 August 2018 - by Dr Sue Avery 
The UK's Equality and Human Rights Commission is threatening legal action if 'outdated' NHS policies, which it says discriminate against the transgender community, are not changed urgently. Specifically, it is concerned that trans people should have equal access to fertility preservation services...
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...
15 August 2016 - by Dr Mary Yarwood 
Transgender men are being permitted to freeze their eggs at NHS-funded fertility clinics, prior to gender re-assignment...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.