27 cou­ples had IVF treat­ment un­der new law

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - Giu­lia Ma­gri

Twenty-seven cou­ples have re­ceived in vitro fer­til­i­sa­tion (IVF) treat­ment since the in­tro­duc­tion of new leg­is­la­tion reg­u­lat­ing the pro­ce­dure, The Malta In­de­pen­dent on Sun­day has learnt.

Dur­ing a po­lit­i­cal speech last Sun­day, Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat and Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Chris Fearne an­nounced that nine cou­ples were ex­pect­ing a child “thanks to the in­tro­duc­tion of such laws.” A num­ber of IVF pa­tients have since con­tacted this news­room, ques­tion­ing the prime min­is­ter’s state­ments.

One cou­ple said: “No­body can straighten out the facts more than cou­ples like us, who are go­ing through this painful or­deal; an in­fer­tile cou­ple try­ing to con­ceive and hav­ing to re­sort to the pub­lic health sys­tem, given that our pri­vate in­sur­ance doesn’t cover IVF treat­ment.”

“The truth,” they say, “is that the IVF clinic is cur­rently closed, pend­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion of the new law. Mus­cat is wrong and is sim­ply in­sult­ing those of us wait­ing for IVF treat­ment. So far, not a sin­gle cy­cle has been car­ried out. We have called the clinic reg­u­larly over the past

four months, only to be told that it can­not defini­tively be said when the next cy­cle will take place, as a tran­si­tional pe­riod has put ev­ery­thing on hold.”

“A cou­ple of months ago we were told that the last cy­cle un­der the old law was about to con­clude, and that fur­ther cy­cles would be put on hold as the sys­tem ad­justed to the new leg­isla­tive regime. Mean­while, we are left in agony. It gets worse when you see all your friends and rel­a­tives buy­ing Christ­mas gifts for their chil­dren, know­ing that you have none of your own to cher­ish and hug...”

An­other cou­ple told this news­room: “We have had in­trauter­ine in­sem­i­na­tion (IUI) done pri­vately count­less times, since the gov­ern­ment does not pro­vide this treat­ment, but af­ter the fifth shot, our gy­nae­col­o­gist was clear that IVF was our only hope, given our age and phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics. We are both pro­fes­sion­als, but IVF is pro­hib­i­tively ex­pen­sive if done pri­vately.”

“It’s dis­heart­en­ing to have the rul­ing party de­clare the ART clinic a suc­cess when, in re­al­ity, you have had the door shut in your face. It makes you feel cheated by the sys­tem. We wake up, go to work and pay our taxes, but with each pass­ing day, the pos­si­bil­ity of hav­ing chil­dren be­comes even more re­mote. Time is ex­actly what we don’t have.

This news­room con­tacted the health min­istry for ver­i­fi­ca­tion. Deputy Prime Min­is­ter and Health Min­is­ter Chris Fearne cat­e­gor­i­cally de­nied the claims, say­ing that the clinic had never been closed. “On the con­trary, 27 het- ero­sex­ual cou­ples have re­ceived IVF treat­ment since the new law was en­acted,” he said. Asked how many of those had suc­cess­fully con­ceived, Min­is­ter Fearne said that treat­ment had re­sulted in nine preg­nan­cies and one mis­car­riage. “Seven women had more than two ova fer­tilised,” he added, not­ing that this was not pos­si­ble be­fore the new law.

Asked if any em­bryos had been frozen, the min­is­ter said that 10 cou­ples had had em­bryos frozen, which would be im­planted dur­ing the up­com­ing cy­cles. “The new law is work­ing very well, as these 27 cou­ples can at­test,” he con­cluded.

The Em­bryo Pro­tec­tion Act was ap­proved by Par­lia­ment last June, con­tro­ver­sially in­tro­duc­ing em­bryo freez­ing and adop­tion. The pro­posed act had orig­i­nally in­cluded al­tru­is­tic sur­ro­gacy; how­ever, it was later an­nounced that this would form part of a sep­a­rate bill. Pro­vi­sions en­sur­ing ga­mete and ova do­na­tion anony­mous were also par­tially amended, al­low­ing those born through as­sisted re­pro­duc­tion to dis­cover their bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents once they have turned 18. The law pro­hibits dis­crim­i­na­tion against sin­gle and/or LGBTIQ peo­ple.

The in­clu­sion of em­bryo freez­ing had been crit­i­cised by both the Op­po­si­tion and the Catholic Church, which warned that it would be the first step to­wards le­gal­is­ing abor­tion. Pres­i­dent Marie Louise Coleiro Preca had said, at the time, that such a polarised de­bate did not “con­struc­tively con­trib­ute to a holis­tic un­der­stand­ing of the hu­man, so­cial, eth­i­cal and med­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions at stake.”

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