IVF too pricey when we don’t need more ba­bies

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - SIRENA BERGMAN

IT WAS re­cently re­vealed that lo­cal NHS cuts have forced 13 ar­eas of Eng­land to re­strict or al­to­gether stop of­fer­ing IVF this year. This is not new – The In­de­pen­dent re­ported in 2015 that two Clin­i­cal Com­mis­sion­ing Groups in Es­sex had stopped fund­ing the treat­ment as they couldn’t af­ford it.

The idea that ac­cess to such ser­vices should be con­tin­gent on liv­ing in the right catch­ment area is ab­hor­rent, but the fact that lo­cal NHS bosses are re­sort­ing to this mea­sure raises a big­ger ques­tion – why is the NHS fund­ing IVF at all?

A na­tion­alised health ser­vice should ex­ist to keep us healthy, both phys­i­cally and men­tally, as in­di­vid­u­als and as a so­ci­ety, re­gard­less of class, in­come, race or creed.

My heart goes out to those who wish to con­ceive nat­u­rally and are un­able to do so, but there’s no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for us­ing pub­lic funds to pay for IVF treat­ment just be­cause it will make some peo­ple feel more ful­filled.

There are re­ports of pa­tients dy­ing in A&E while wait­ing hours to be seen, de­lays for can­cer screen­ing re­sults due to a lack of staff, and hos­pi­tals are plan­ning to cut the num­ber of po­ten­tially life-sav­ing op­er­a­tions they per­form on pa­tients with heart con­di­tions due to their cost. And then there are all the vi­tal ser­vices the NHS won’t even con­sider fully fund­ing, such as eye tests, den­tal treat­ment, air am­bu­lances, pre­scrip­tions and at-home care.

IVF is an ex­tor­tion­ately ex­pen­sive – and of­ten in­ef­fec­tive – process which serves only to ful­fil peo­ple’s whim­si­cal ob­ses­sions with baby-mak­ing, and puts even more long-term strain on the NHS: women who get preg­nant via IVF have a higher risk of ec­topic preg­nan­cies and are more likely to be­come preg­nant with twins or triplets, which in turn in­creases the risk of mis­car­riage, pre-eclamp­sia, ges­ta­tional di­a­betes, anaemia and the need for a cae­sar­ian sec­tion, which in­volves fur­ther po­ten­tial com­pli­ca­tions.

Were we to live in a so­ci­ety with a des­per­ate need for more ba­bies, this might be jus­ti­fi­able, but as it is we’re see­ing a huge cri­sis of over­pop­u­la­tion, which is de­plet­ing our nat­u­ral re­sources faster than ever. By all ac­counts, there’s noth­ing an in­di­vid­ual can do to lower their car­bon foot­print more than not hav­ing chil­dren, and the UN projects an un­man­age­able pop­u­la­tion of 9.6 bil­lion by 2050.

Gov­ern­ment data showed that in 2016 there were over 70 000 chil­dren in the UK who were in the care of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties – in other words, tens of thou­sands of chil­dren need a home.

In­stead of mak­ing adop­tion and fos­ter­ing ac­ces­si­ble (and more fi­nan­cially vi­able for most peo­ple), we’re push­ing women to­wards IVF, a treat­ment which costs thou­sands of pounds and has a rel­a­tively small suc­cess rate – 32% for women un­der the age of 35 and 20% for those aged 38 to 39.

Women are al­ready told through­out their lives that their pri­mary role and re­spon­si­bil­ity is to pro­cre­ate. Want­ing to have bi­o­log­i­cal chil­dren is con­sid­ered the de­fault set­ting, and women who don’t feel this way are pa­tro­n­ised and co­erced into chang­ing their minds. Grow­ing a foe­tus in­side a womb is con­sid­ered a woman’s big­gest achieve­ment, push­ing a hu­man out of you is sup­posed to be the hap­pi­est day of your life and ful­fil­ment and hap­pi­ness is sup­posed to come to us in the form of a sea of dirty nap­pies, colic, fish fin­ger din­ners and school runs.

It’s out­ra­geous that we’re us­ing gov­ern­ment money to re­in­force the idea that giv­ing birth is as vi­tal a part of a healthy life as get­ting your ap­pendix out if it’s in­fected. More­over, we can’t af­ford it any­more.

–The In­de­pen­dent

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