If you are considering going abroad for fertility treatment, you may be interested in this article I wrote for a supplement for The Times earlier this week.
For many people, going overseas can be a cheaper option, and many return with positive stories about their experiences, but you do need to be aware of the facts and understand the differences you may find if you choose to have treatment outside the UK.
There are some great clinics across the globe, but there are also some that are not quite so great and you don’t have the protection that you have here in the UK of knowing that all clinics offering IVF are licensed and regularly inspected by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. As you don’t have that luxury with clinics elsewhere, you do need to make sure you do your homework and research as much as you can about the clinic and the country to ensure that you are left feeling that you did the right thing in choosing to travel for treatment.
A new survey of fertility patients looking at overseas treatment carried out for Fertility Network UK and the website Fertility Clinics Abroad has unsurprisingly found that cost is the major reason why people travel for treatment. Of those who responded to the survey, nearly 80% said fertility treatment in the UK cost twice as much as they were willing or able to pay and 68% said that they would travel for treatment because IVF overseas was generally cheaper.
When people first started travelling overseas for fertility treatment, it was often to access donor eggs but according to this survey most of the respondents were using their own eggs for IVF treatment abroad. The survey found that people believe that treatment can often be offered more quickly abroad. There was also a perception that the standard of care was better overseas with clinics offering a more personalised approach.
Interestingly many were also attracted by the apparently high success rates overseas, but some respondents had noticed that these rates could be confusing and misleading. A majority had said a centralised database of all overseas clinic success rates would be welcome but it would be very hard to verify these rates. Some overseas clinics claim success rates of more than 80% for women using their own eggs for IVF, and it is important to be clear that these rates are not comparable with the figures you will get from a UK clinic as they are using different criteria, are not always including all the patients treated at the clinic and may be giving rates for positive pregnancy tests rather than for live births.
Almost a quarter of respondents wanted to go overseas because they would have access to anonymous donors and it would have been very interesting to find out why they felt this was an advantage – did they feel it was linked to a larger pool of available donors or was it the anonymity itself which was attractive, and if so why. So, a survey which provides some interesting information – and also raises many questions! You can read more details about it here
Travelling abroad for treatment has been increasingly popular in recent years, partly driven by the cost of IVF here in the UK. Now, new research from the University of Texas at Arlington shows that more and more Americans are coming to Europe for IVF, often to Central European locations such as the Czech Republic.
Apparently they are sometimes looking for egg donors and are attracted by adverts which promise Caucasian donors and caring clinics. It seems to Czech Republic is a particularly popular destination, according to the researchers. You can read more about this work, carried out by Amy Speier, an assistant professor of medical anthropology, here on the University of Texas website
There’s a really interesting article here asking whether patients should be allowed to travel overseas for fertility treatment to a country which has different rules and regulations from those at home. We just assume that patients have the right to go wherever they want and do whatever they want, but this article is based on a report in European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Reproductive Biology which considers the idea that there are moral issues for doctors in supporting patients who want to travel abroad to avoid the laws in their own countries.
Apparently in 2012 the French Health Ministry sent out a warning to doctors that informing patients about egg donation overseas would carry a risk of five years in prison and a fine of 75,000 Euros because of concerns about human eggs being bought and sold – and in Germany and Turkey they have also had penalties for doctors referring patients overseas for certain treatments.
You can find the report itself, from the European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Reproductive Biology here, which argues that governments should be tolerant to patients who wish to travel for treatment and suggests that their doctors who refer them are trying to act in their best interests. However, the article from Fox News quotes a Japanese health researcher from Kanazawa University in Japan called Yuri Hibino who says that in Japan some hospitals are so worried by the risks of egg donation abroad, which can include multiple pregnancies and older mothers, that they won’t deliver babies conceived by egg donation.
What do you think? Should there be restrictions on treatment overseas? Or would that be a step too far and an interference with personal liberties? And what about doctors who refer patients overseas? It’s certainly an interesting issue…