16 September 2011

The IVF revolution is money badly spent

Not surprisingly, the axe is hanging over the funding scheme for IVF as the Federal Government examines ways of reining in the annual $300 million safety net.

Equally unsurprising is that IVF lobbyists are working overtime to ensure the status quo remains.

IVF clinics are also exhorting potential patients – sorry, consumers – to write protest letters to politicians and the media.

The IVF lobby wields enormous power and is used to winning, thanks to the emotional power of the issue.

After all, only a monster could argue against motherhood. Then health minister Tony Abbott tried in 2005 to limit funding to three IVF treatments a year for women up to the age of 42 and three in total for older women.

He failed, even though his proposal was more than generous.

Let’s hope that Nicola Roxon has the fortitude to finally prevail in putting an end to this madness.

In 1995, 1 per cent of babies born in Australia were the result of assisted reproductive technologies. In just a few years the figure jumped to 2 per cent and is now more than 3 per cent.

Let’s consider some of the consequences. What are we getting for our money, apart from a placated and powerful lobby group?

As recently as 2005, the AIHW was made aware that the perinatal death rate was 7.3 deaths per 1000 births in even the most responsible forms of IVF – where a single embryo was implanted (rather than several in order to increase the chances of a live birth).

And for those babies who do make it, the risks continue.

By 2004 a procedure called ICSI had become one of the most common forms of treatment.

It involves injecting the flawed sperm of an infertile man directly into a woman’s egg.

Medical evidence is mounting that sons conceived through ICSI inherit their father’s infertility.

Leading researcher Dr Craig Niederberger is to publish the latest findings to this effect next month in the US journal Adult Urology.

The problems with ICSI have been long known, though. In 2006, the leading journal Human Fertility published "ICSI Hype or Hazard?", in which Belgian researchers canvassed studies proving the link between the procedure and congenital abnormalities in the children resulting from it.

All IVF carries risks for children, however. A systematic review of IVF studies conducted in 2005 revealed a 30-40 per cent increase in birth defects when comparing IVF and ICSI babies with naturally conceived children.

The fact is that we are paying to create a faulty gene pool, turning Darwin’s theory about survival of the fittest on its head.

What other species would be so foolish as to encourage this form of un-natural selection?

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that fully informed men and women shouldn’t take such risks in their understandable longing to become parents, or that the procedures should be banned – just that we need to question the wisdom of subsidising the practice to the astonishing degree that we do.

Scroll to Top