Saturday 15 June 2019

Fertility clinic will only treat married couples

Moral stance helps children, says Galway firm

Daniel Mcconnell

A fertility clinic in Galway is refusing to treat unmarried couples who are experiencing difficulties starting a family.

The decision to restrict fertility services to married couples has been described as "very odd" by Fine Gael's health spokesman Dr James Reilly.

Fertility Care, which is based at the Galway Clinic, is linked to an international group operating across Europe -- but the other clinics do not confine their services to married couples.

According to its website, Fertility Care is a "holistic medical system that empowers women and couples to make healthy choices regarding their fertility".

Last Friday, a caller was told that the clinic's services are only open to married couples as the clinic sought to recognise the legal commitment made by them.

Currently, there are three doctors working at the Galway clinic headed up by Dr Phil Boyle. He qualified from the National University of Ireland in 1992 with a degree in medicine and surgery, and is registered with the Medical Council.

Defending his stance, Dr Boyle told the Sunday Independent: "The idea is to promote and recognise the legal commitment made by couples who are in for the long haul. Married couples are more likely to stay together and kids do better when then their parents are married."

Dr Boyle said that the needs of children were paramount and they are best served by having married parents and the promotion of the traditional family unit.

Dr Boyle's refusal to treat unmarried couples has led to complaints to the Irish Medical Council, which found that he is not bound to treat unmarried couples or single mothers. Dr Boyle said that when the code of ethics for fertility care was introduced in 1985, it was considered professional malpractice to treat non-married couples.

The rules have been relaxed but Dr Boyle said he is affiliated to the American Academy of Fertility Care Professionals, which insists that the service should only be offered to married couples.

He said that if he offered the treatment to non-married couples, that crucial affiliation would be in jeopardy.

Two other doctors work at the Galway Clinic. The HSE has said there is no legal impediment to any doctor refusing to treat patients, but the Opposition said last night said it is ludicrous for any doctor to impose their morality on patients.

Fine Gael's James Reilly said: "It's very odd, strange. At this point in time, when a huge number of births are to unmarried couples, this situation is at variance with the social norms of the country. It is not right for a doctor to impose certain moralities on patients."

Reilly was also critical that such restrictions are being imposed when there are such shortages in the fertility sector in Ireland.

About 2,000 couples seek IVF treatment every year in Ireland, at an average cost of €3,000 per treatment.

There is a 40 per cent pregnancy success rate. There are up to 10 centres in Ireland providing, or planning to provide, IVF treatment. The Ireland Medical Council said its 'Guide to Ethical Conduct and Behaviour' is under review.

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