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Couples in fertility treatment in line for financial aid under proposals

Health Minister will bring forward details at end of year but nothing will be in place until 2019


Proposals: Health Minister Simon Harris

Proposals: Health Minister Simon Harris

Proposals: Health Minister Simon Harris

Couples undergoing fertility treatment will be in line for financial aid under proposals discussed by Cabinet.

It would be the first time regulation has been approved here in the area of assisted reproduction.

Health Minister Simon Harris will bring forward proposals at the end of the year on State funding for people undergoing fertility treatments.

But he did not say how much this subsidy would be, how many cycles would be financially supported or what treatments would qualify.

It is not expected to be in place until 2019.

People in Ireland currently get a 20pc tax credit on out-of-pocket expenses, and medicines are capped at €144 a month.

An examination by the Health Research Board of how fertility treatments are funded abroad found the majority offer partial, rather than full, public funding.

Of the 19 countries offering partial funding, some had a cut-off age of 40 years for the mother.

Philip Watt, chief executive of Cystic Fibrosis Ireland, said while he broadly welcomed the intention to subsidise fertility treatment for couples, major questions remained.

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"This is a key issue for people with cystic fibrosis who often need fertility treatment in order to start their own families - infertility is a lesser known symptom for both males and females, though it affects some people more than others.

"Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe where people with cystic fibrosis do not have access to subsidised or fully supported fertility treatment."

He asked what the level of subsidy would be, who would be entitled to it, and would it cover more than one cycle which now costs around €6,000.

It is also unclear whether pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) would be covered.

This is a procedure used prior to implantation in conjunction with IVF to help identify genetic defects within embryos.

There are two clinics that provide PGD treatment in Ireland. It costs a further €5,000 for PGD treatment at present on top of €5,000 for IVF, bringing the total to €10,000.

"This serves to prevent certain genetic diseases or disorders from being passed on to the child. Many couples with one child with cystic fibrosis opt for it to ensure that further children are not born with cystic fibrosis," Mr Watt said.

Meanwhile, the first law to regulate fertility treatments will allow surrogacy in Ireland, although it cannot involve a commercial transaction.

A new authority can pre-authorise babies to be born through a surrogate in Ireland for the first time.

It also will permit a new court-based system to arrange for the baby to become legally part of a new family.

On the issue of surrogacy, it emerged that the Bill on Assisted Human Production and associated research does not outlaw Irish people availing of commercial surrogacy abroad.

This is the most common way these babies are born through surrogacy.

The long-overdue legislation, which will not be in place until next year or 2019, and has to go before the Oireachtas health committee, will see the setting up of an Assisted Reproduction Regulatory Authority to oversee clinics. It prevents money changing hands for egg or sperm donation.

It allows for embryos to be used by a widow where they were created while her partner was alive. Female eggs and embryos can also be used for research in some circumstances.

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