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UK 'fertility tourists' urged to think carefully before travelling for treatment

30 April 2006
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 356

The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has urged couples seeking fertility treatments to 'think twice' about travelling to other countries for an 'IVF holiday'.

The HFEA, which was set up in 1991 to regulate, license and monitor the provision of fertility treatment in the UK, said that couples should make sure that they are aware of the 'risks and implications' of going abroad for treatment before they book. Suzi Leather, chair of the HFEA, said that the authority is aware that 'a relatively small number of people choose to travel abroad to undergo fertility treatment and that sometimes the treatment is packaged as a 'holiday' where the patient can convalesce in the sun'. However, she went on to say that some foreign clinics may offer treatments that could be dangerous to patients, such as implanting multiple embryos during IVF to increase the chance of a pregnancy. In the UK, current guidance, found in the HFEA Code of Practice, stipulates that clinics should transfer no more than two eggs or IVF embryos at a time to women under 40 years old and no more than three eggs or embryos to women older than 40.

'We are concerned that people who choose to have their treatment abroad should know about the potential risks', said Ms Leather, in a press statement released by the HFEA last week. She warned patients to consider what would happen if something went wrong, and also other things, such as whether their information would be kept confidential and whether gamete donors are screened, as well as how they are recruited, whether they are paid to donate their gametes, and whether they would be identifiable.

Clare Brown, chief executive of Infertility Network UK, a patient support organisation, said that although the HFEA's warning may be sensible, as the standard of care in other countries may not be as good as it is in the UK, some patients will still choose to ignore it because they are 'forced' to travel abroad because they cannot access the treatment they need at home. 'The shortage of egg and sperm donors has led to unacceptably long waiting lists in some areas and we know of clinics where the waiting lists have been closed and couples are no longer being accepted for treatment due to the lack of donors', she said. In addition, some patients will choose to travel to another country in order to circumvent restrictions placed on treatments in the UK. According to the BBC, European fertility clinics have seen a boom in UK customers since the right to anonymity was removed for UK gamete donors last year.

Britons cautioned on foreign fertility treatment
Reuters |  28 April 2006
Couples warned of dangers in fertility tourism
The Daily Telegraph |  28 April 2006
Thinking of going abroad? Think twice about going abroad for fertility treatment
HFEA Press Release |  27 April 2006
Warning over 'fertility tourism'
BBC News Online |  28 April 2006
5 July 2010 - by Seil Collins 
Expensive UK fertility treatment and long waiting times related to a shortage of egg and sperm donors are the major reasons people seek fertility treatment abroad, according to the first academic study into cross-border reproductive care....
22 September 2008 - by Sarah Pritchard 
A report has indicated for the first time the cost faced by the UK's National Health Service (NHS) as it copes with multiple births resulting from IVF patients treated abroad. New research undertaken by the Fetal Medicine Unit at University College London Hospital (UCLH) makes a link...
22 October 2005 - by BioNews 
Professor Eric Blyth, speaking at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) conference in Montreal this week, presented an analysis of a UK Department of Health survey of sperm and egg donors, which shows that loss of donor anonymity could potentially halve the number of people donating. In April, a...
20 June 2005 - by BioNews 
BioNews reporting from ESHRE conference, Copenhagen: Guido Pennings, professor of ethics and bioethics at the University of Ghent, Belgium, says that we should not condemn 'reproductive tourism' in Europe but regard it as a 'safety valve' that can help to avoid moral conflict. He told the annual conference of the...
29 March 2005 - by BioNews 
British fertility doctors say that a forthcoming law ending anonymity for egg and sperm donors will worsen the current donor shortage in the UK, and will also lead to an increase in patients seeking treatment abroad. The British Fertility Society (BFS) says it 'welcomes steps towards openness in fertility treatment...
5 July 2004 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
Last week, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) released data on IVF and ICSI success rates across Europe. This showed, among other things, that fertility clinics in some eastern European countries that have recently joined the European Union have success rates equal to or better than those...
1 July 2004 - by BioNews 
The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) has suggested that the recent expansion of the European Union (EU) could lead to a rise in UK and other western European couples travelling to eastern Europe for fertility treatment. Data revealed at the ESHRE annual conference in Berlin, Germany, shows...
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