Fertility Associates, New Zealand’s largest fertility clinic, is currently celebrating the birth of baby 15,000 through their reproductive technology services. At the same time, they have unveiled a new technique to help in the selection of ‘healthy’ embryos to implant.
But what is the true cost of IVF in New Zealand?
The new service offered to parents at Fertility Associates is “Time Lapse Morphometry Imaging” where the cell divisions of the developing embryo are captured by photographs every five minutes. The still shots are then used to compile a video which allows technicians to view developmental changes without disturbing the embryos. For those undergoing IVF, this means they can opt in for the service which helps to “identify the embryos with the best prognosis to then be transferred (or cryopreserved)”. The imaging is available for an additional cost – around $1,000.00. The technology, it is hoped, will increase the success of IVF treatment from 40% to 50% in women under the age of 37.
Fertility Associates was established in 1987 by the founding doctors of IVF in New Zealand, Dr Freddie Graham and Dr Richard Fisher. They provide both privately and publicly funded ‘treatments’ (anything from ovulation induction and artificial insemination to IVF and surrogacy).
Two other fertility clinics that provide IVF in New Zealand also boast births in the thousands. Fertility Plus, the first fertility clinic in New Zealand, which is run through National Women’s Health at Greenlane Hospital, has had up to 10,000 babies born through IVF; and Repromed, a private clinic based in Auckland, operating since 2007, has had more than 1000 births.
While the birth of a baby is always worth rejoicing over, we do have concerns over how these babies have been conceived – the removal of the union of spouses means that these babies were conceived in a science lab, they were selected for implantation when just a few days old – the best of usually a number of embryos. Their siblings, deemed “not good enough” were discarded as nothing more than medical waste. The remaining ‘lucky’ embryos had their lives suspended through cryopreservation for possible use later on.
If 26,000 babies have been successfully brought to birth through IVF in New Zealand since 1984, then how many thousands more nascent human lives have been discarded? How many are currently frozen – their lives suspended?
Fertility Associates have revealed that 10,600 embryos are currently being stored at their clinics in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch. As they are not the only fertility clinics in the country that store embryos in liquid nitrogen, we can assume that there are thousands more.
On November 22nd the embryo storage restrictions set forth in the HART Act 2004 (Human Assisted Reproductive Technology Act) will come into effect. According to Fertility Associates 1950 embryos would be reaching the 10 year limit in their clinics alone. 350 couples or women are the parents of these frozen embryos. Some will have obtained permission to extend storage through the Ethics Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology (ECART). Unfortunately, ECART were unable to supply me with the number of extensions given, despite being the Committee which grants permission.
The human embryos that have been stored for 10 years at that time, which do not have storage extension permission, will need to be destroyed within six months.
Already stripped of their dignity through the means in which they were conceived and then stored, these embryos – human life – will make the ultimate sacrifice for those who face infertility, or because of personal circumstance wish to circumvent the natural order and become parents anyway (ie. same-sex couples or the single woman).
So what is the real cost of IVF in New Zealand? It is not monetary, despite a massive investment by those walking that path. No, the real cost is the loss of nascent human life – human life stripped of dignity from the very first moment of their existence.