A fertility expert has warned that plans to permit surrogacy in Ireland are too restrictive and that people would continue to seek surrogacy abroad even though it remains a grey area.
Consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Mary Wingfield said the legal situation of those who employed surrogate mothers abroad should have been addressed in the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill.
Prof Wingfield was one of three fertility experts to discuss the proposed legislation at a meeting of the joint committee on health yesterday.
The Government approved the drafting of the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill last October. It outlines specific conditions under which surrogacy in Ireland would be permitted.
Prof Wingfield, clinical director of the Merrion Fertility Clinic, was a member of the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction that produced a report in 2005.
She was delighted to see that, except for the proposals on parenthood in surrogacy, the draft bil accorded with the commission’s recommendations.
However, there was a “worrying suggestion” in the bill that professionals such as herself would not be allowed to help people planning surrogacy abroad.
“I certainly would find it unethical, as a doctor, not to be able to help my patients in this regard,” she said.
Prof Wingfield supported the view that a donor-conceived person had the right to know his or her biological parent but not in the way it was being planned.
Both she and the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists felt it was “irresponsible, dangerous, and an invasion of privacy” that a donor-conceived person seeking a birth certificate would be told he or she was donor-conceived without requesting that information.
John Kennedy, group medical director of Virtus Health Ireland, said limiting fertility treatment to patients who were 47 years or younger was discriminatory and the “most punitive aspect” of the bill.
Virtus Health Ireland includes Sims IVF in Cork and Dublin and Rotunda IVF, collectively the largest provider of assisted human reproduction services in Ireland.
Dr Kennedy said 50% of the 153 patients over the age of 47 years who attended Sims over the past five years had become pregnant after receiving treatment.
John Waterstone, president of the Irish Fertility Society, said in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) is expensive and only modestly successful.
“Patients deserve safeguards which promote success and protect against financial exploitation. These functions have not been specifically proposed for the Assisted Human Reproduction Regulatory Authority but should be,” he said.
Fine Gael senator Colm Burke asked if there had been communication between fertility experts and the Department of Health.
Prof Wingfield said they had one meeting with the department in August 2015 and another in November last year.
Dr Waterstone said there had been no meaningful interaction with the department at all.
“You guys [the committee] need to bring together the people who are formulating the legislation and us, the people who are the coalface, to make sensible laws that are good for everybody,” he said.
Committee chairman Michael Harty said the matter would be followed up.
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