State should help fund IVF, says Rhona Mahony
The master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dr Rhona Mahony, has called on the Government to look at funding fertility treatment for Irish women who cannot conceive naturally.
She also described how as a result of the high cost of fertility treatments, a growing number of Irish couples are seeking unethical treatments abroad, leaving Irish hospitals to "pick up the pieces".
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Dr Mahony said there was a strong argument for supporting women in an "important primal desire".
"I think there is an argument for funding some fertility treatments because it is very expensive and it is a very important primal desire for women to have a baby and for couples to have a baby. It is just so heartbreaking when couples come to the stage where it is really very unlikely that they can have children naturally. But where there is an opportunity with treatment - and particularly younger couples - where there is a very specific problem, I do think there is an argument for funding some, not all, fertility treatment."
Speaking at the inaugural Tiffany Ireland Funds luncheon for women in business and philanthropy, Dr Mahony acknowledged the struggle for funding within the health service, but added that it was equally important to recognise the heartbreak involved for men and women facing infertility problems.
"The State is struggling to fund basic care and we have limited resources. But, like everything, if you have not had that experience then perhaps you underestimate the pain that comes with not being able to have a baby."
She also highlighted the fact that couples were being forced to seek out unethical treatments abroad because of the high cost and difficulty in accessing fertility treatments here.
"Ethics is very important and, more so, we are seeing women travel outside of Ireland for all sorts of treatments and that worries me because it is not absolutely ethical, it is in a commercial domain and then we are left, as a hospital, to pick up the pieces.
"It can be cheaper internationally, there can be more choice given internationally, it can be more relaxed in the approach, whereas here I think many of the fertility units are very ethical and they will not enter into treatment where they feel there is not a realistic outcome of pregnancy. Whereas if you travel outside of Ireland you will find that not all clinics are as ethical and that is a problem, and so you can have people who have many underlying complications becoming pregnant and there's multiple pregnancy and that gives risk," she added.
"When you see women who have underlying disease who then become pregnant you see there is a risk to them and they may not have thought this through - and you owe a reasonable responsibility of care for anyone who walks in the door. What we are trying to do is keep women safe and it cannot be the case of reproduction at any cost. There has to be a balance."