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Common ground on IVF

Eleanora Porcu, of Bologna, Italy,  who has been the director of the Infertility and IVF Centre at the University of Bologna since 1990, recently addressed a seminar organised by the Bioethics Committee.

Dr Porcu demonstrated the very good success rates of IVF treatment with vitrification (egg freezing) in Italy where embryo freezing is banned save in exceptional circumstances. The success rates of this state run clinic are comparable to rates reported by other European countries that use embryo freezing as part of standard IVF treatment.

Dr Porcu has provided solid evidence of the more ethical practice of egg freezing that will now allow for a more ethical solution to the problem of unregulated IVF treatment in Malta.

With egg freezing as the norm and embryo freezing only there as a backup measure, Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART) in Malta may enjoy the same success rates as Dr Porcu’s clinic in Bologna and there is no reason why IVF treatment in Malta cannot perform at the same level of excellence as the Bologna clinic.

Moreover, the financial investment required to run an ART clinic based on either embryo freezing or egg freezing remain relatively similar This means that setting up a clinic to provide egg freezing is not going to present local specialists with insurmountable entry barriers.

Egg freezing removes the need to fertilise more than the exact amount of embryos targeted for implantation and thus removes the necessity to freeze superfluous embryos. Restricting implantation to two embryos will likewise eliminate some of the problems created with current practices predominantly those that result in multiple births and the associated problems that this brings. There remain the other issues to overcome such as the problems that arise from the fact that currently Malta does not have a resident embryologist and clinics here rely on a foreign embryologist who visits the Island once every quarter. This places a strain on the Neonatal Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at Mater Dei Hospital.

This is not a time for individuals to become entrenched in ideology. Neither is it wise to politicise such a delicate issue. There is consensus that IVF in Malta cannot continue unregulated. I believe that we have now arrived at a situation where common ground has been found and it is high time that we close this chapter.

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