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Controversy over NHS funding of fertility treatment for transgender patients

15 August 2016
Appeared in BioNews 864

Transgender men are being permitted to freeze their eggs at NHS-funded fertility clinics, prior to gender re-assignment.

This treatment allows individuals to store eggs for future use in IVF and surrogacy. However, critics say it is not the responsibility of the NHS to fund fertility treatment for transgender patients.

According to Dr James Barrett of the NHS Gender Identity Clinic in West London, at least three British transgender men may soon become parents through IVF treatment. He stated that, during the last 12 months, he had asked GPs to refer 50 female-to-male patients to have their eggs frozen and 100 male-to-female patients to have their sperm frozen. While some local NHS authorities agreed to fund this treatment immediately, others refused or took months to decide.

'As a matter of principle, anybody who loses their fertility as a result of standard NHS treatment should be able to preserve their fertility,' said Dr Barrett. The offer to preserve gametes is made routinely to those receiving chemotherapy treatment for cancer. Dr Barrett questioned, 'Why are people with cancer particularly magic and get this [NHS fertility treatment], and other people don't? Transgender patients want to live like normal people. They want what everybody else gets as a matter of course.'

However, Peter Bone, Conservative MP for Wellingborough, stated that it is a waste of NHS resources at a time when basic services are being rationed 'to fund fertility treatment so men can give birth'.

Transgender individuals can choose to use a surrogate, who is often the person's partner, to carry an embryo created from their frozen gametes. While the NHS may fund initial egg or sperm preservation, only individuals with fertility problems will receive NHS fertility treatment. A couple using a surrogate would likely have to pay for that treatment.

This consideration may be unnecessary in certain rare cases of female-to-male transgender patients who retain their female sexual organs. One example includes Thomas Beatie, a transgender man who stopped taking male hormones and conceived without IVF treatment in 2008.

March of the male mums: Sex-change men to give birth on NHS... with three British men born female already 'on brink' of having babies
Mail Online |  30 July 2016
Sex change men 'on brink' of having babies following NHS treatment
The Telegraph |  31 July 2016
Transgender men set to have babies on the NHS
The Times (subscription) |  1 August 2016
8 April 2019 - by Catherine Heffner 
A legal dispute over access to NHS fertility services for transgender people has been resolved after new guidelines were issued...
3 September 2018 - by Lone Hørlyck 
Illinois has become the latest US state to insist medical insurers fund fertility preservation treatments for cancer patients...
8 January 2018 - by Dr Lanay Griessner 
Germany's Federal Court of Justice has ruled that the a trans woman must be registered as her child's legal father and not its mother.
8 January 2018 - by Dr Sam Sherratt 
The NHS should offer patients the chance to freeze their eggs before they receive treatments that could damage their fertility, say new guidelines published by the British Fertility Society.
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...
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15 May 2012 - by Dr Vardit Ravitsky and Professor David Heyd 
Sex reassignment is an intricate and sensitive physiological, psychological, and social process that usually entails the loss of reproductive capacity. Reproductive technology can prevent this loss, but should it be used for that purpose? A recent case in Israel raises this question...
18 April 2011 - by Daniel Malynn 
On Thursday 7 April 2011, Channel Four aired a documentary in its Body Shock series, titled 'Dad's having a baby'. The documentary follows the family life of Tom and Scott. Scott was born Jessica, but identified as male. He had a partial sex change, but remained legally female. Tom - born Laura - also identified as male, had a full sex change and became legally male. The couple met in California, married and adopted Logan aged 11 and Greg aged 13...
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