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'Remote' IVF allows use of anonymous donor eggs without travel

Patients will be able to ‘remotely’ carry out IVF with donor egg, says company

Anonymous sperm and egg donation is expected to be banned in Ireland, once the Minister for Health commences enactment of Parts 2 and 3 of the 2015 Children and Family Relationships Act, which allows for parentage through donor-assisted human reproduction. File image: PA

Irish women undergoing fertility treatment can now avail of anonymously donated eggs for use in IVF without having to travel abroad, according to an international clinic which has facilities in Ireland.

The Institut Marquès, which has clinics in Dublin and Clane, Co Kildare, says it has developed a new programme which will allow patients to avoid travelling and to “remotely” carry out IVF with donor eggs.

The institute is to present the initial results of its “distance oocyte donation” (DOD) programme at the 2018 conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona on Tuesday.

Anonymous sperm and egg donation is expected to be banned in Ireland, once the Minister for Health commences enactment of Parts 2 and 3 of the 2015 Children and Family Relationships Act, which allows for parentage through donor-assisted human reproduction. A ban on anonymous donation is in place in many countries including the UK.

Explaining its new programme, Institut Marquès director Dr Marisa López-Teijón said “cross border reproductive treatment” could be stressful for patients. With DOD, “it’s the embryo that travels. This method offers a safe, efficient and comfortable option to carry out treatment in the patient’s country of origin”.

The semen sample of the male partner is frozen at the country of origin such as Ireland and sent to its laboratory in Barcelona, where IVF is carried out with the donor’s fresh eggs. Once fertilised, embryos are vitrified (frozen) on their fifth day of development and sent back to Ireland so embryo transfer can be carried out by the patient’s own doctor in her country of origin.

The programme has achieved a pregnancy rate of 65 per cent by embryo transfer; a “live born baby rate” of 52 per cent, a miscarriage rate “only 12.6 per cent and multiple pregnancy rate goes down to 0.9 per cent”. This is based on 215 IVF “cycles” carried out at its Livet facility in Italy.

Prof Deirdre Madden, an expert in medical ethics at UCC, pointed out egg donation was not prohibited by Irish law currently, which suggested the programme could be a consequence of difficulties in sourcing suitable egg donors here.

A lot of countries had egg shortages as generating them involved an invasive procedure including use of ovary stimulation drugs, and was not as easy as sperm donation, she said. In relation to Ireland, “it’s less about the law and more about getting eggs. There is nothing preventing having the egg procedure done here”, she said.

There was a lack of legal clarity on two fronts, however: a three-year delay on implementing relevant parts of the Children and Family Relationships Act and the fact that the 2017 Assisted Reproduction Bill had yet to be fully adopted, she said.

The latter is expected to regulate a range of practices including gamete (sperm or egg) and embryo donation for assisted human reproduction and provides for an independent regulatory authority.

The Irish Fertility Society has expressed strong opposition to the proposed ban on anonymous donation and the creation of a register that would allow donor-conceived children obtain personal family information once they turn 18.

The society, which represents clinics, consultants and scientists working in the sector, claimed women using fertility treatment to get pregnant would be driven abroad or into “private arrangements with men on the internet” if the anonymity ban and donor register went ahead.

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