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Chemotherapy patient challenges NHS fertility preservation funding refusal

14 April 2014
Appeared in BioNews 750

A Crohn's disease patient is challenging a decision to refuse her funding for her eggs to be cryopreserved before she undergoes a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy. The 'exceptionally urgent' case is currently being decided by Mr Justice Jay at the High Court in London.

Lizzy Rose, from Margate in Kent, had applied three times for funding to have her eggs cryopreserved before she undergoes treatment for Crohn's disease. Rose fears the treatment will leave her infertile and unable to have genetic children of her own.

Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) had 'continually refused' to provide the NHS-funded treatment according to Rose's barrister, Jeremy Hyam. In his written argument, Hyam says that the policy was unlawful and out of date.

Rose faces 'imminent' treatment for the disease, after being diagnosed when she was 14. The procedures for egg cryopreservation take a few weeks to complete, and therefore there is a 'short window of opportunity', said Hyam. 'The expected consequence for her, if the fertility preservation treatment is not provided, is lifelong infertility and the inability to bear her own genetic child'.

The treatment, which would cost £4,050, is currently available to couples and to single men. Hyam accordingly called the refusal 'discriminatory'. Single woman are eligible for the treatment in other areas of the UK, leading Rose to believe that she’s the victim of a 'postcode lottery'.

Thanet CCG is contesting the case and said in a statement: 'The policy all Kent and Medway CCGs have adopted, after extensive consultation and clinical advice, is that this particular procedure will not normally be funded [...] on the basis that there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate effectiveness'.

'We are very sorry about the distress this may cause patients who are facing very difficult personal circumstances. However, we must use our limited public money to fund services for our population as a whole and so are required to take difficult decisions on prioritising treatments'.

In a statement, Rose's solicitors counter that 'NICE [the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence] reviewed the clinical evidence and cost-effectiveness of this treatment and has recommended it should be offered'.

'Thanet CCG provides funding for fertility preservation for males and couples, also recommended by NICE on similar terms. It cannot be right to not fund this treatment for women like Lizzy'.

A decision is expected on Wednesday 16 April.

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