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Infertility = Vulnerability

by JustEliza on 11 November 2010

It is insulting that, of all the cost-savings Primary Care Trusts could make, a few are trying to claw back their own financial mis-management by discriminating against infertile couples, promoting health inequalities through cutting the provision of NHS-funded IVF treatments. If preventing people from receiving the treatment they need to reproduce is the answer, surely it is more cost-effective to mandate birth control, heck, even hire cops to enforce abstinence, for the general public? Perhaps only let the healthiest, most intelligent, most successful people breed, to avoid poor lifestyle decisions and faulty genes. Bring eugenics back.

Bury, Warrington, and North Yorkshire are just a few PCTs who have cut NHS funding for IVF, and there will no doubt be more. It may have been a hard decision and it may only be temporary, but it is without a doubt the biggest mistake they could make in an already fragile NHS. Let me explain.

When I first trained in emergency first aid, I learned my ABCs. Airway, breathing, circulation. Make sure you can breathe. Make sure your heart is beating. Then take care of the rest.

When I trained in wilderness survival, I learned the priority of other needs: water, food, shelter, and sleep.

When I volunteered as a youth mentor, I learned how important personal safety, belongingness, intimacy, and self-esteem were to our well-being.

When I earned my university degree in human and evolutionary biology, I studied how all of these human needs revolved around one thing even bigger than us: reproduction. Without reproduction, no other priorities matter. There would be no more human race. There would be no life, period. This world is a celebration of our ability to persist. Improve, diversify and persist.

Those PCTs must have forgotten their basic biology, because I can't think of a single reason why anyone could help an ex-smoker breathe but not let an infertile couple have at least one chance of having a child. Sure, the world is over-populated. But I dare you to tell the soldier who just lost his legs that he shouldn't receive prosthetics because, don't worry -- everyone else can walk just fine. The human race will carry on.

Good for the soldier if he has the money to afford his own prosthetic legs or specialised wheelchair. Most don't. But why should the soldier go without legs so that I can receive therapy for my mental health problems? Who decided that my asthma medication mattered more?

Those PCTs have in effect told infertile couples who cannot afford IVF to go without having children just so PCTs can balance their accounts. We finally have the price for a human life, and it must be less than £5000 -- the current cost for IVF.

I no longer wonder why the mental health services in Northwest England are so over-subscribed, when their primary care trusts come out with decisions like this.  I hope they can put all of the money they save in 2012 into increasing the number of therapists, because it is going to take a lot more than 6-12 months to band-aid this sort of loss. And I don't just mean loss of children. I mean loss of respect and trust.

Many people disagree with me.

And in part, they are right. I could live without children. I could sell everything I had to fund my own treatment. And if the NHS didn't exist, that's precisely what I would do. But that's not the country we live in. That's not the healthcare system I work so hard for, every day.

Today, my husband and I lost another embryo. Can I call it a child? Is it the same as losing your teenaged son or your elderly mother?  Your sister, your lover, or your friend? We'll keep trying, because that's all we can do. You might feel a small amount of empathy for my loss, but I want to be completely clear: this month isn't any less hard than those months where our child ended even before conception. It is the same loss.

Grief isn't meant to precede joy. That's not the natural order of things.

And if infertility didn't go hand in hand with such stigma and shame, I'm sure more you would understand how it feels to be placed in the same category as hair implant surgery. Because more of us would speak up. But as for today, I can't even tell my family. Only our GP knows, and even our GP doesn't have time to care.

As the PCTs have been making so imminently clear recently. They are too busy with More Important Problems.


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JustEliza said on 11 November 2010
JustEliza said on 9 December 2010

More articles on the suspending IVF funding:

Again, I'm unsurprised by the strong opinions of the public who lack training in health needs assessment, health economics, and equality/diversity. The point of the article is about the fact that cutting IVF was not an economically-driven decision. It was a socially-driven decision.  Case in point: Stockport PCT consulted community groups who deemed it a low priority. Since when did community groups have the right to act on behalf of trained commissioners? Moreover, since when did 'trained commissioners' start relying on consulting the community as primary evidence?

No wonder the government is dissolving PCTs...

Thankfully, Andrew Lansley still agrees with me:

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