27 couples had IVF treatment under new law
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.”