New plans for regulation of assisted human reproduction by the end of the year

Department of Health to submit proposals to Governent

Tue, Jul 15, 2014, 01:00

New plans to regulate the area of assisted human reproduction are to be submitted to the Government by the end of the year, the Department of Health has said.

At present Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe without legislation to regulate this sector although up to 3,000 babies are born each year as a result of in-vitro fertilisation and other high-tech interventions.

It is more than a decade since the then government established a Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction to advise on how the area could be regulated.

Priority issue

Six years ago, the group issued a series of recommendations. The government of the day pledged to introduce legislation as a priority issue; this did not happen.

However, in February the former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter published the general scheme of a new Children and Family Relationships Bill aimed at “creating a legal structure to underpin diverse parenting situations and provide legal clarity on parental rights and duties in diverse family forms”.

In a document submitted to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health last week, the Department of Health said it was finalising proposals for the consideration of the Minister for Health “in the area of regulation of assisted human reproduction and related policy issues”.

It said the proposals had been “updated significantly to take account of scientific, regulatory, legal and technical developments since the publication of the 2005 report of the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction”.

“The Minister expects to bring his proposals on these issues to Government later this year.”

The document was drawn up on foot of a question tabled by Fine Gael TD Catherine Byrne who also asked whether the Department of Health would consider making provision for in-vitro fertilisation treatment available within the public health system.

The document submitted to the Oireachtas committee did not answer this specific question.

Last May Ms Byrne, who represents Dublin South Central, called for in-vitro fertilisation to be made available under the public health system.

Incredibly expensive

“I have personal experience of a family member and friends going through IVF, so I know how difficult it can be. Not alone can it be a heart-breaking and frustrating experience, but it is incredibly expensive,” she said.

“Assisted human reproduction is covered by the NHS in the UK and I don’t see why it cannot be made available on the public health system here.

“Prospective parents here can offset the cost of private assisted human reproduction treatment against their income tax liability, and the cost of prescribed assisted human reproduction medicines is an allowable expense under the Drugs Payment Scheme,” she said.

However, she said many couples needed to try the treatment more than once and experienced huge financial strain as a result.