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Polish government debates fertility treatment policy

25 October 2010
Appeared in BioNews 581

Polish MPs have begun debating measures to regulate fertility treatments, sparking widespread discussions over the regulatory options and ethical considerations surrounding assisted conception.

Although the provision of IVF is lawful in Poland, it is at present unregulated. Six draft bills are being debated in the Polish Parliament, the Sejm, covering a wide range of approaches to what is a sensitive issue in this predominantly Roman Catholic country. The draft proposals vary dramatically. More liberal proposals suggest fully permitting IVF and allowing treatment costs to be reimbursed by the State. Conservative approaches, such as that proposed by the largest opposition party Law and Justice, advocate criminalising the provision of IVF and making breaches punishable by a five-year prison sentence.

Opinion on how to regulate IVF - if at all - has been voiced by interest groups across the Polish community, with the Catholic Church being among the most vocal and vigorous objectors to the procedure. In a letter seen by Reuters news agency, the country's bishops say IVF comes at a 'great human cost'. 'IVF requires the 'selection' of embryos, which means killing them. It is about selecting weaker human embryos deemed to be unfit', the letter said.

The Prime Minister and leader of the liberal Civic Platform party, Donald Tusk, responded by saying politicians owed a responsibility to Polish citizens and not to the Church. Mr Tusk is himself supporting a bill proposed by Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska that permits IVF and associated procedures including embryo freezing for married couples and those in heterosexual relationships. The bill also includes provisions for the procedure to be paid for by the National Health Fund.

Mr Tusk pledged in his 2006 election campaign to ensure availability and universal access to IVF, which is provided by approximately 40 centres throughout Poland. Of those only half report the number of treatments, indicating the use of IVF may be higher than statistics indicate. At around 8000 złotys, IVF currently costs more than double the average monthly income in Poland. 'If we decide on IVF then we cannot leave it as an exclusive method available only to the affluent', said Mr Tusk.

The President, Bronislaw Komorowski, a Catholic himself, has called for a compromise between Christian values and the wishes of 'many, often desperate couples, seeking a way to have a child'. Opinion polls suggest many Poles favour a more liberal approach, allowing IVF for married couples.
Poland's IVF debate to regulate procedure
BBC News |  25 October 2010
Polish Bishops Attempt To Sway Parliamentary Debate On IVF Bills
Medical News Today |  22 October 2010
Polish bishops crusade against IVF
News 24 |  22 October 2010
Polish MP wants IVF use punished with jail time
Warsaw business journal |  22 October 2010
7 December 2015 - by Dr Rosie Morley 
The newly elected conservative government in Poland plans to cut state funding for IVF, two years after the scheme was introduced...
29 June 2015 - by Dr Rachel Montgomery 
Poland's lower house of parliament has approved a bill that, for the first time, provides statutory regulation of IVF in the country...
16 March 2015 - by Jessica Ware 
Poland's government has drafted legislation to regulate IVF in the country. If it becomes law, Poland will become one of the last countries in the European Union to legislate for assisted conception...
10 June 2013 - by Dr Katie Howe 
An Ohio Archdiocese has been ordered to pay US $171,000 in damages to a teacher who was fired after becoming pregnant by artificial insemination....
7 May 2013 - by Jessica Ware 
Poland's justice minister has been dismissed from his position after weeks of conflict with the country's prime minister over state-funded IVF and civil partnership...
26 July 2010 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A fertility clinic in Spain is offering patients the option of using embryos 'left-over' from previous treatments without the donors' explicit consent, the Telegraph reports. The Instituto Marques clinic near Barcelona, which provides fertility treatment to foreign couples, runs an 'embryo adoption scheme'...
28 June 2010 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
Couples from Italy are at the top of the list of foreign couples seeking fertility treatment abroad, researchers report today at the 26th Annual Meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), in Rome...
5 June 2010 - by Dr Nadeem Shaikh 
Political consensus in Denmark has resulted in an amendment to legislation governing IVF funding. According to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), free public health services will no longer extend towards assisted reproduction treatments (ART)....
14 March 2010 - by Rosie Beauchamp 
Yves Bolduc, the Minister for Health in Quebec, Canada, has announced plans to introduce free fertility treatment through the extension of Medicare coverage. This move will fulfil Premier Jean Charest's 2008 campaign promise...
22 February 2010 - by Dr Nadeem Shaikh 
Sixty infertile couples protested on Canada's annual Family Day holiday against a lack of provincial government funding for IVF treatment. The February rally was organised by the group Conceivable Dreams, which represents 1,100 infertile couples who say they are suffering because the government refuses to help them....
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