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Updated - IVF: Association insists on two embryos limit

 Updated - Adds statement by Gift of Life - The Maltese Paediatric Association has reiterated the need for the effective regulation on the number of embryos that may be legally transferred in any single IVF cycle.

In comments after the first week of the debate in Parliament on the IVF Bill, the association said it was reiterating its stand in order to minimise the risk of medical complications to infants.

The Bill places a limit of two embryos but there have been calls for that number to be raised.

"Unregulated IVF frequently results in triplets and since 90% of triplets are born prematurely, they have a high risk of death, brain damage with permanent disabilities and numerous other complications," the association said.

"IVF is therefore regulated in all European countries, employing different means and strategies, with the intention of minimizing the risk to babies associated with multi-foetal pregnancies."

The association said that obstetricians who practice IVF should welcome an evidence-based protocol to achieve two main objectives:

A good success rate, and The protection of human life from its beginning and the safeguarding of children born from this process.

"We therefore appeal to the Members of Parliament to ensure that the law should restrict to a maximum of two the embryos transferred per IVF cycle, as per all regulated European countries, and to clearly define the exceptions to this general rule. The law should also empower the regulatory authority to establish and enforce the norms for best practice."

The Association warned that unless the law includes such provisions, it will not provide any safeguards to the life and health of children born from assisted reproductive techniques.

CALL FOR 'BALANCED' LAW

Meanwhile, the Gift of Life Foundation said it welcomed the fact that there seems to be a general consensus on both sides of the house to protect human life from fertilization.

"Whilst one appreciates that the privacy of couples seeking IVF treatment is to be respected, we call on Parliament to protect the concept of a (regulatory) authority. It would be meaningless to enact legislation without an effective authority which is in turn empowered to monitor and coordinate processes that involve not only the prospective parents and their rights, as well as the rights of the embryo, which is the most vulnerable person in the process.

"The Gift of Life Foundation is in full agreement that couples persons seeking IVF treatment should be treated with the utmost sensitivity and care and that confidentiality should be respected at all times. We would, however, be very concerned if this was achieved by removing accountability through the elimination of the Authority.

"Working hand in hand with doctors and other health care professionals, an Authority (made up of other responsible professionals) should not subtract anything from the provision of a service that is private, respectful and sensitive to the situations of couples seeking IVF treatment. It is our understanding that there are other forms of treatment available through the national health service, including treatment abroad, which are vetted, in confidence, by relevant boards on a case by case basis prior to approval."

Gift of Life called on Parliament to enact a responsible law -one that offers the right balance between the needs of prospective parents, the embryo and the clinic offering the treatment.

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