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Infertility Does Not Discriminate; Why Should We?

By: Dr. Sonya Kashyap

Evelina Zachariou, Infertility Does Not Discriminate; Why Should We?
Infertility Does Not Discriminate; Why Should We? (Photo Credit: Evelina Zachariou; Flickr)

The comments published on May 12s edition of the National Post with regards to Pregnancy is a want, not a need, were very disheartening to read. I understand that the opinions in the article are not meant to be hurtful, but as a fertility doctor, I would like to bring to light that infertility is not a choice, much like many other medical conditions that public health care treats on a regular basis.

Here are a few stories of patients who have visited my clinic this week their struggles are strong validations for why I believe fertility treatments should be publicly funded:

  • A 33-year-old woman is freezing embryos to use after she has completed treatment for her uterine cancer. She will be without the use of her own uterus and therefore will require a surrogate to conceive.
  • A 29-year-old woman whose husband has no sperm because of chemotherapy. Fortunately, he froze some sperm before treatment.
  • A couple lost their child last year due to a rare genetic condition.
  • A same sex couple who met late in their 30s.
  • A 25-year old woman who was born without eggs.
  • Two women who have breast cancer are preserving their fertility. One is 29 and the other is 33. They should not lose their ability to have children because of a disease caused by genetic and/or environmental causes.
  • A couple in their 30’s who have been struggling to conceive for 3 years already. Her father is dying of cancer and they would love to have him know a grandchild is on the way.
  • A 35-year old lawyer who unfortunately still lives in the career path of a man’s world. She has to choose between having a child, freezing eggs and/or pursuing her career during the next five to ten critical years of career development.

Infertility is not self-inflicted. There may be some lifestyle and career choices that make infertility more common in certain groups, but we should not and do not discriminate against providing health treatment for those who do have self-inflicted illnesses. For example, no one tells a smoker that they will not be treated for his heart attack and no one tells an overweight patient that they will not receive treatment for their diabetes. So why should treating and funding infertility treatment be any different?

Fortunately for Canadians, having children is a privilege. For a country who has invested heavily in our health care system and achieved great technological advancements in fertility, we should proudly support our ability to help families conceive both biologically and financially. There are many ways to help families afford in vitro fertilization (IVF): tax credits, funding, limiting IVF cycles to one and single embryo transfers with frozen embryos. As long as there are logical, reasonable, stringent policies in place for funding fertility treatments, it should not be a burden to our health care system or fiscal budget.

Many countries cover fertility treatments in fact, the most health-progressive countries with the highest quality of life indices such as Sweden provides state funding for IVF. A study published in 2008 in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health confirms that federal funding of this treatment does not negatively impact the long run fiscal budget. If countries such as Sweden can publicly fund fertility treatments, then Canada should put that into consideration as well.

Infertility is one disease that not only can be cured by helping an individual or a couple have a child, you can change the destiny of their families. In addition, from a fiscal and vocational perspective, you are adding necessary tax payers and workers to continue to provide the necessities for a strong society.

So before we make pre-conceived notions on why Canada should not publicly fund fertility treatment, we should look at the stories behind each case of IVF and put ourselves in the patients shoes. Publicly and responsibly funding IVF will create a cascade of positive change not just in the patients lives, but to the community as a whole.

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