IVF law: good or bad?
The strangest thing about the use of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in Malta is that it has remained unregulated for some 20 years. Seen in this light, the Bill launched by the government – rather strangely entitled the ‘Embryo Protection Bill’ – should at first glance be seen in a good light.
IVF is a complicated subject, but it impinges on many people’s lives in one way or another.
Principally, it affects couples who want to have children and for whatever reason are unable to conceive. They quite often are so desperate for a solution that they are driven to distraction. For them, the possibility of IVF is a godsend.
However, to date it has been an expensive option since the procedure is only currently available privately. And the costs involved – given the complex nature of the technique – have inevitably been high.
The new legislation will make it possible for practically all couples who meet specified criteria to make use of IVF, since it will be available on the national health service at Mater Dei Hospital.
However, the use of IVF also interests the wider community, including the Church and ethicists.
Malta’s bishops have taken a somewhat blanket approach, saying that while the procedure appears to be a “service of life”, it is actually a “threat”.
While there are extremely valid concerns over the practice, this statement seems too unequivocal, especially given that it is being made at a time when the government is seeking to place a practice that already takes place in Malta within a legal framework.
Of course, the Church did not stop there. It went on to condemn embryo freezing – which it seems the new law will prohibit save for the most extreme circumstances – as well as the general destruction of embryos in the IVF process.
The proposed legislation seems to have made an attempt to address the latter concern by limiting the number of fertilised eggs to two per cycle, though this has drawn criticism from medical circles who have suggested that such a cap drastically reduces the chances of pregnancy.
According to one doctor and former chairman of the Bioethics Consultative Committee, Prof. Maurice Cauchi, the consensus among ethicists is that the practice is acceptable as long as the sperm and egg are obtained from the potential parents and not from third parties.
However, there is concern over embryo destruction and genetic selection techniques.
It is of paramount importance at this juncture that all voices are heard to ensure that the legislation is as ethically acceptable and workable as possible. People on both sides of the fence should try not to get lost in emotional argument. A good solution is what counts.
Crazy road signs
Transport Malta has broken with years of practice and decreed that all place names on new road signs should now be in Maltese.
This is not only incomprehensible, but leads to ludicrous situations. Since there are not even English equivalents, how is a visitor supposed to know how to get to San Pawl il-Baħar when he knows it as St Paul’s Bay, or Raħal Ġdid when he knows it as Paola, or Il-Port tal-Imġarr when he knows it as the harbour? This list of can go on and on.
If the object was to waste money on signs that will only confuse visitors, full marks. However, as if the roads and roadworks were not already enough to contend with, nil points for common sense.