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Treatment suspended for hundreds of IVF couples over new laws

The new Child and Family Relationship Bill could cause issues for those using anonymous donors of egg and sperm.

Image: IVF via Shutterstock

MORE THAN ONE thousand patients undergoing IVF treatment have had their treatment suspended amid fears over new legislation on egg and sperm donations.

The Child and Family Relationship Bill will criminalise the use of anonymous donations, meaning that all egg and sperm donors must be identifiable.

However, one Irish clinic has suspended therapy for more than one thousand patients as they have already started IVF treatment using anonymous eggs or sperm.

The legislation provides some leeway in cases where an embryo has formed, but not for those who have not yet reached this stage. The Department said there is no legal requirement to suspend treatment for other stages.

Dr David Walsh, a medical director at Sims clinics in Dublin, told TheJournal.ie that it can take up to six months for an embryo to be formed, and not every course of IVF is successful.

Rush

“All that needs to be introduced is an extra transitional arrangement for couples in this situation,” he said, adding that he was concerned there was a rush to get the legislation passed before the same-sex marriage referendum in May.

The legislation is due to come into effect on March 24, if it successfully passes through the Oireachtas.

“We don’t think it’s fair to be recruiting patients for a procedure that’s going to be illegal after 24 March,” Walsh said, explaining the reason for suspension of the treatment.

He added that it could be difficult in future to source named donors of sperm and eggs.

I’m not saying it’s impossible, but there’s a lot of stipulations. It’s going to be a lot of work.

Walsh said that the Government should now take positive steps to educate the public on sperm and egg donations.

“There are no sperm or egg banks in Ireland. They don’t exist, there are none.”

A further education campaign on the process will be needed, or it will risk sending more patients abroad for treatment, or even “importing sperm into their own homes for insemination”, Walsh said.

It could become similar to Ireland’s abortion laws, he said, as doctors could be unable to consult with patients who wish to travel abroad to use anonymous donors.

Responding to the suspension of IVF, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice said:

Since the Bill has not been passed and will not come into effect for some time, there is certainly no legal requirement that clinics suspend treatment. Neither the Minister nor the Department have suggested that they should, and we would have no legal authority to do so.

The spokesperson added that “the Bill contains some specific transitional measures for couples who may already be undergoing IVF and for whom embryos have already been formed”. The legislation doesn’t refer to patients who have not yet reached this stage.

Read: There’ll be no such thing as a designer baby under this new law >

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Nicky Ryan

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