The legal framework that shapes donor treatments

The legal framework that shapes donor treatments

In the 2020 ‘Fertility Tourism Survey’ conducted by the International Fertility Company 55% of the 500 individuals who participated travelled for treatments which involved a donor. Since this time there appears to be no let up in the numbers of individuals and couples continuing to seek the help of donors. According to the latest research by De Montfort University in the U.K. over 7,000 babies are born as a result of donor involvement in Europe each year. Spain continues to be the most popular destination for donor treatments, carrying out over 50% of the total annual number of treatments; the majority of which are accessed by women travelling to the country.

The legal framework which supports and manages donor involvement in assisted reproduction varies between countries and for individuals, often unsure of whether to venture down the donor route, this can make the process even more complicated.

Here, we provide a snapshot of the terms you might come across when you are considering donor treatment and a look at the different ways countries view donor conception.

Anonymous egg donation

IVF involving anonymous donors is offered in a number of European countries including Spain, Greece and the Czech Republic and refers to a process in which no identifiable information about the donor is shared with the recipient or resulting child. In some countries a limited amount of information about the donor may be shared such as their physical characteristics (i.e., hair, skin, eye colour). In countries where donation is anonymous, recipients or resulting children cannot request additional information about the donor.

Non anonymous egg donation

IVF involving non anonymous donors is offered in a growing number of countries including the U.K. Under this legal framework the donor agrees to share their identifiable personal information with any person born as a result of their donation once they reach the age of consent, usually at 18. All gamete donations are legally applied as non-anonymous in countries such as the U.K.

Mixed anonymity 

A ‘mixed’ donor arrangement may also be available in certain countries. This refers to an arrangement where a limited amount of information is shared between parties which might allow the possibility of greater contact between donor and recipient or donor and child in the future.

The table provides a snapshot of the different arrangements in place regarding donor information and reflects tits diverse application in different countries..

Country Anonymous donors Non-anonymous donors Mixed system
Czech Republic Yes No No
Denmark Yes Yes Yes
North Cyprus Yes No No
Spain Yes No No
U.K. No Yes No
U.S.A. Yes Yes Yes

Differences also exist between countries who work with anonymous donors in relation to the limited non-identifiable information that can shared with recipients. A few examples are provided below,

Czech Republic

Physical characteristics such as height, hair and eye colour, blood type as well as the level of education, hobbies and interests of the donor may be shared.

North Cyprus

Characteristics such as height, hair and eye colour, blood type, the donor’s level of education, occupation, leisure interests and previous donation history may be shared.

Spain    

Characteristics are limited to hair and eye colour, blood group and the age of the donor.

You may also find that differences exist between clinics in the same country so you will need to clarify which characteristics will be shared on a clinic by clinic basis.

The decision to involve a donor can be a difficult one which may be influenced by the arrangements in place which define the relationship between donor, recipient and any child born from the treatment. If you do choose this route however you do have choices; you can choose an anonymous or non-anonymous donor, someone who is known to you or a hybrid of any of these arrangements.

And remember there are technologies that make your choice a little easier even in those countries where information about the donor is limited. One such innovation is facial biometrics and one of the leaders in the field, Fenomatch, specialise in helping patients reliant on donor intervention, the opportunity to match their facial traits with those of donors. This is particularly useful for medical professionals who are ultimately responsible for choosing donors and offers reassurance and confidence to patients who are seeking donors who resemble them physically.

You can learn more about Fenomatch and its artificial Intelligence-based platform here, https://fenomatch.com/en/

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Fertility Tourism – travel with a purpose

Fertility Tourism – travel with a purpose

Travel with a purpose

 

Despite the obvious pause caused by Covid-19, travel in general has begun to bounce back to near pre-pandemic levels. Nowhere is this more evident than the quest for travel with a purpose. This article examines a specific form of travel with a purpose, fertility tourism.

What is Fertility Tourism?

Fertility tourism refers to people travelling to help with medical needs rather than to seek it in their home country. The reasons for travel are numerous and include waiting list time, access to specific treatments, such as egg donation, cost and success rates. One thing is certain, more people are travelling and are prepared to travel long distances.

How popular is Fertility Tourism?

Fertility tourism is a term which developed after the birth of the first IVF baby in Britain over forty years ago. Treatment providers offered help to domestic and international patients. Now, you will find fertility clinics in any developed country offering a dedicated service to patients living outside its borders.

UK Market

In the U.K., the fertility market has undergone major changes. A number of medium and large groups have grown their own clinics and invested in others. Over 60% of all clinics regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) are now owned by groups. Despite an increase in the number of large clinic groups in the U.K. there is still an apparent gap between demand and supply. This is evident when it comes to specific types of treatment.

Those patients seeking donor treatments are most likely to look abroad in the first instance. Research was carried out by the International Fertility Company (IFC) in 2020. It suggested that over half the people that travel from the U.K. do so to access egg, sperm or embryo donor treatments. Supply is one of the major drivers for travel. Patients highlighted a lack of donor availability and high costs as being reasons for fertility tourism.  It is not surprising therefore that the numbers travelling in search of donor treatment continues to rise.

Donor International and Fertility Tourism

Donor International has been set up to help patients access donor treatment. Matching availability with need, its online platform showcases donor treatment options in different countries. Founder and Chief Executive of Donor International Eddie Kuan explains,

“Our ‘One-Stop’ platform gives Individuals and Couples access to over 170 centres worldwide and thousands of donors”

In 2005 the U.K. changed its law relating to egg, sperm and embryo donors. Any baby born as a result  from 2005 onwards would, at the age of 18, be able to find out who their donor was. Whilst this change was welcomed by many, others wish to keep donor information anonymous. U.K. patients seeking anonymous donors therefore need to travel to countries in which this remains legally possibly.

Covid Disruption

The Covid-19 pandemic has created an NHS backlog in the U.K.. According to the latest NHS figures over 7 million people were on the waiting list for treatment in England alone. An additional 400,000 had been waiting over a year. NHS waiting lists are forcing patients into the private sector. The Private Healthcare Information Network says the number self-paying patients accessing private care has risen by over a third since 2020.

NHS Funding for Fertility Treatment

NHS funding for fertility treatment varies considerably across the UK. It ranging from 62% of cycles funded by NHS Scotland to less than 20% in some parts of England. The level of funded treatments is decreasing across the U.K. with only a third of all cycles now being funded.

It is very likely that the numbers of private  patients will continue to rise.  Andrew Coutts, a specialist in cross border reproduction has been working with patients for over ten years,

“Although we don’t know specific numbers it is evident that patient travllers is increasing. The Office for National Statistics has estimated that just under 250,000 UK residents went abroad in 2019 just prior to the pandemic.  I can see no reason why this figure will not continue to rise year on year”.

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