IVF is a wonderful thing. The miracle that it provides will always be above and beyond most other medical procedures. This is recognised by the team at the Dogus clinic and it’s why they call themselves “Team Miracle”. Because they are. Sadly though, as well as being this amazing thing, the process of IVF will always be a contentious topic. The ability to bear children is something which is a given for most women, but for those who struggle to conceive they must go through a process. And if the process is being done on the NHS, then there are many, many hoops to jump through. And this raises ethical issues; how fair is it? The urge to bear a child is a primeval force for some women; something that simply cannot be ignored. Is it correct that women should be forced to prove their right to bear children simply because they need assisted conception?
It goes slightly beyond just ‘proving’ however; there are many guidelines which have to be met to assess whether a couple are eligible for treatment on the NHS. The following is an example of the typical conditions:
– You must be under 39
– Your BMI (Body Mass Index) must be less than 30
– You must be a non-smoker and prove this through a breathalyser.
– You must be teetotal, or close to (though there is currently no way to monitor this)
– There must be no previous children for either party
– You must have a diagnosed infertility reason, OR 3 years unexplained infertility
To take the debate at face value, IVF is a costly process and if a woman is significantly overweight, or over the age of 40, then the treatment is far more unlikely to work. Therefore you could see it as ‘wasting’ precious and expensive treatment, which may well have worked on someone who was younger and slimmer. However those against this view argue that the system takes no notice of what is normal for each woman. One patient was forced to drink high calorie shakes every day for two years to reach a weight that was seen as ‘acceptable’ by the NHS to qualify for treatment. It was simply not her body style to be that heavy and the minute the baby was born her BMI dropped straight back down 19. So should the NHS invest more in assessing each patient on an individual basis?
Another view is that perhaps the criteria for treatment should be even more stringent. One idea is that the HFEA (Human Fertility and Embryology Authority) should issue forms to be completed as part of the qualifying criteria, the idea being that they would look at the likely welfare of the child, income levels of the family, the structure of the family unit and also take note of any criminal records. But again, why should IVF patients be subjected to this when there are millions of people who would fail the eligibility assessment falling pregnant naturally every day? And how fair is it to deny a couple the chance of providing a sibling for an existing child that may well only have one biological parent in the family?
Some health authorities are looking to change the eligibility criteria by reducing the number of cycles permitted from 3, but extending the age range in compensation. Changes like this seem to do little for those hoping to conceive and they are also confusing. Already there is the situation where women won’t know what they don’t know and may well not check before they decide to try and conceive. There are also the more onerous rules such as having to reach a certain age before having IVF to eliminate genetic conditions is allowed. Another issue is the fact that the policy for access to IVF treatment is not streamlined across the UK. It differs widely from area to area, leading to a ‘postcode lottery’ effect. This necessarily raises ethical issues about how fair it is to restrict access in some parts of the country and not others. The general feeling among IVF patients in the UK is that access should be the same, no matter where you live. But sadly, this is not the case.
So therefore, it’s easy to see the benefits of having IVF treatment abroad. These clinics are simply far more attuned to the needs of the couple. Rather than restricting treatment in virtually every way possible, clinics such as Dogus IVF Centre with their Team Miracle with Dr. Firdevs are able to offer a selection of different procedures. For example, they will transfer 4 embryos, whereas the NHS can only transfer 1 in order to stay within HFEA guidelines. Team Miracle of Dr. Firdevs will also give a patient correct dose of medication for their fertility level, compared to the NHS who can only give the minimum level of medication in order to save money on their budget. There are also no restrictions placed on couples in terms of weight, age, sexual orientation or family unit. All are treated equally. However it is important to remember that these differences should not be construed as the NHS deliberately trying to prevent effective treatment; it is simply very sadly the case that the funds are not there to facilitate as much as would be required. Team Miracle, however, are not subjected to the same constraints.
Clinics such as the Dogus IVF Centre are attracting hundreds and hundreds of UK couples. The draw is not purely financial either. With ever better facilities and care programs, the general feeling is that treatment abroad is a far more appealing option. The IVF process can take place much more quickly than in the UK and for a far lesser sum of money. This, however, does not equate to a drop in standards. Overseas IVF clinics have noticed the gap in the market and many are rushing to fill it. With the ability to have your treatment in a calm, warm environment, away from every day stresses and strains, the chances of success are arguably much higher. Rest is easy to take and relaxation almost guaranteed. Many couples are actually organising their summer holiday around their IVF cycles. In addition, there are procedures available as standard choices, such as gender selection, which are simply not routinely available in the UK. There is precious little eligibility criteria to fulfil and lots of patients report a more welcoming atmosphere.
Bearing all of this in mind, it is easy to see why patient focus is shifting away from the UK in the search for their journey to conception. Muddled guidelines, skewed ideals and far too many policies to make it an easy procedure means that NHS IVF is no longer an attractive option. And meanwhile, the clinics offering IVF abroad are seeing ever larger numbers of women arriving and the more who receive successful treatment abroad, the more people will feel comfortable with travelling for IVF. The gap between UK-based treatment and treatment overseas is rapidly closing – with the latter in the winning position. When it comes to success, it seems that this more often found in sunnier climes abroad than in the grey confines of UK clinics.