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Free IVF now available to gay couples in Britain

Updated on May 28, 2012

Also available to HIV sufferers

There has been much controversy surrounding Britain's National Health Service over the years, never more so than in the last decade. From complaints about the availability of the free service to non-tax paying new immigrants and asylum seekers, to the questionable decisions made by the NHS committee, NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) about certain lifesaving treatments only being made available to patients within a certain postcode area, there seems to be an on-going list of complaints about this free health service.

Last week it was revealed that the NHS will be offering IVF treatment to both gay couples, and patients with HIV respectively. This announcement has been met with disdain by heterosexuals, church groups, and even some doctors, particularly due to the apparent 'fast-tracking' approach in the new proposal.

In the UK, a heterosexual couple will usually only be referred for fertility testing by their GP if they have been trying to conceive for a year or longer. Some doctors will refer you sooner, however, 12 months tends to be the time that most practitioners allocate an otherwise healthy couple, in order to naturally conceive. After this time frame, a referral to a fertility specialist for further testing would be the usual way forward. The results from such tests would then determine the couple's eligibility to treatments such as IVF. However, as outlined in the NHS guidelines, a couple must have been "infertile for at least 3 years."
The guidelines also state that IVF is not the first option for infertile couples, and that testing to determine infertility, followed by appropriate infertility treatment if possible, is the common outcome.
IVF is usually the final medical option for most couples to conceive a child of their own.

From start to finish, the journey for a heterosexual couple to have a baby of their own is a long, emotionally and physically challenging one, with painful medical procedures performed, such as a Hysterosalpingogram and various ultrasounds performed on the woman, examinations performed on, and samples taken from, the man, in order to fully determine the reason behind their infertility.

But while a heterosexual couple is being put through such invasive and time consuming tests, a gay couple can now bypass all of that, and be considered for IVF treatment after only 6 attempts at trying to conceive using the NHS-funded treatment called IUI (Intra-uterine insemination) using donor sperm.

It goes without saying that gay rights activists are clicking their heels at this news, but what about the questions that have arisen about the cost of this latest decision made by NICE, and the fact that there are cancer patients in the UK being refused life saving drugs due to the high cost of them, yet they are willing to fund IVF treatment?

In addition to this news, NICE have also announced that free IVF will be given to patients suffering with HIV. This poses the debate as to whether someone with a terminal illness should be considered a stable parent figure or not. (Regardless of arguments about HIV not being terminal, while AIDS is the virus that eventually kills the patient, it is known that all cases of HIV will eventually turn into AIDS, thus deeming HIV a 'terminal' illness.)
And why only HIV sufferers? Why not cancer patients or people with diabetes, or those with erectile dysfunction? By aiding a woman with HIV to conceive her own child, the NHS is providing that child with an unstable future and the certainty of the mother not living long enough to raise said child.

Everyone should have the opportunity to raise a child of their own, regardless of sexual preference, but certainly not at the cost of a life saving cancer treatment (and this applies to any non-urgent medical procedure that is provided to some people, such as weight loss surgery, breast enlargement, and transgender sex change operations). No matter what your background, race, or sexual preference, eligibility to IVF and other fertility treatments should remain the same across the board.

Should gay couples be given IVF on the NHS?

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