Single men will get right to start family under radical new 'infertile' definition
Services could face pressure as World Health Organisation changes global legal standard
Single men and women without medical issues will be classed as 'infertile' if they do not have children but want to become a parent, the World Health Organisation is to announce.
In a move which dramatically changes the definition of in- fertility, the WHO will declare that it should no longer be regarded as simply a medical condition.
The authors of the new global standards said the revised definition gave every individual "the right to reproduce".
Until now, the WHO's definition of infertility - which it classes as a disability - has been the failure to achieve pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sex.
The World Health Organisation sets global health standards and its ruling is likely to place pressure on individual health services.
Dr David Adamson, one of the authors of the new standards, said: "The definition of infertility is now written in such a way that it includes the rights of all individuals to have a family, and that includes single men, single women, gay men, gay women.
"It puts a stake in the ground and says an individual has got a right to reproduce whether or not they have a partner. It's a big change.
"It fundamentally alters who should be included in this group and who should have access to healthcare.
"It sets an international legal standard. Countries are bound by it."
Infertility affects one in five couples in Ireland. This radical new departure will see infertility redefined from a medical condition to the "right to reproduce" and could have public policy health implications, according to experts.
Speaking about the change in the definition, Dr Bart Kuczera, consultant with Beacon Health Fertility, said: "As surrogacy is illegal in this country it's unlikely that this new WHO definition will be adopted in the short term.
"However, the Department of Health is currently charged with drafting legislation dealing with assisted human reproduction (AHR) which will regulate a range of practices for the first time."
These include gamete (sperm or egg) and embryo donation, posthumous assisted reproduction and stem cell research, among other areas.
"Furthermore, the adoption of this WHO new definition could impact on potential new government plans to fund fertility treatment for couples struggling to conceive," added Dr Kuczera.
The new definitions drawn up by WHO's international committee monitoring assisted reproductive technology will be sent to every health minister for consideration next year.
The controversy broke as the American Society for Reproductive Medicine annual congress heard that the 10 millionth IVF baby would be born by the end of 2020.
Official figures estimate that by 2013, 6.5 million people had been born using the technique since the first IVF birth took place in 1978.