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2015 health vision seeks excellence and not fiction

I refer to Paul Vincenti (Gift of Life Foundation, June 22) who states: “Egg freezing removes the need to fertilise more than the exact amount of embryos (sic) targeted for implantation and thus removes the necessity to freeze superfluous embryos. Restricting implantation to two embryos will likewise eliminate…multiple births.”

The agenda on the Social Affairs Committee meetings on IVF in recent weeks was to be restricted to one issue – following the developments in the June 30, 2010 European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) annual meeting in Rome, does ova vitrification rule out the necessity of embryo freezing altogether save the obvious to avoid prejudice to the woman’s health? Put differently, does egg vitrification exclude the possibility of creating more than the exact amount of embryos targeted for implantation? In fact creating an “exact number of embryos” as Mr Vincenti suggests, is fiction.

Mark Brincat, head of department at Mater Dei and the University of Malta, was unequivocal in the May 11 Social Affairs Committee: “If we fertilise four eggs to get two embryos but end up with three fertilised eggs instead, what shall we do with the third one? Shall we discard it or forcefully implant it in the woman? Embryo freezing is a fallback option in this case”.

This middle-of-the-road approach was also advocated by then Commissioner for Children, Carmen Zammit, backed by the National Council, whereby my Select Committee was advised that “embryo freezing was to be allowed only in urgent circumstances or when more embryos would have been created as an unintended side effect as not more than two embryos should be concomitantly transferred”.

That no more than two embryos should be transferred has been the unanimous decision of all paediatricians here since 2005.

The implantation rate, moreover the pregnancy rate following the transfer of a single unselected cleavage state embryo (as diametrically opposed to single embryo transfer) in an infertile couple are so low that no ART specialists carry it out – not even Eleanora Porcu, recent guest of local lobby against embryo freezing.

Reacting negatively to the conclusion reached by the Italian Constitutional Court in 2009, deciding against several sub-articles of Article 14 of the law of February 19, 2004, No. 40 and introducing a derogation to the general ban against any freezing of embryos, Dr Porcu stated: “As time went by the number of pregnancies in my patients progressively increased and fertilising less eggs than the maximum number allowed by law, I was able to have approximately the European average rate of triplet pregnancies” (www.ilsussidiario.net/News/Scienze/2009/4/3/LEGGE-40-Eleonora-Porcu-i-paradossi-di-una-bocciatura-ideologica/15633/ ).

In fact, European data indicate wide differences in the incidence of triplets between countries, varying between zero per cent (say, Slovenia, Iceland, Lithuania) and 4.4 per cent (Hungary). (Source: PubMed .)

The government’s 2015 vision for health aims for excellence not fiction.

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