Single? Want kids? No problem

21 October 2016 - 09:45 By HENRY BODKIN


Single men and women without medical issues will be classed as "infertile" if they do not have children but want to become a parent, the World Health Organisation is to announce. In a move which dramatically changes the definition of infertility, the organisation will declare that it should no longer be regarded as simply a medical condition. The authors of the new global standards said the revised definition gave every individual "the right to reproduce".Until now, the organisation's definition of infertility - which it classes as a disability - has been the failure to achieve pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sex.But the new standard suggests that the inability to find a suitable sexual partner - or the lack of sexual relationships which could achieve conception - could be considered an equal disability.The organisation sets global health standards and its ruling is likely to put pressure on government health departments to change policies on who can access in vitro fertilisation.Legal experts said the new definition, which will be sent out to every health minister next year, may force law changes, allowing the introduction of commercial surrogacy.However, the ruling is likely to lead to accusations that the body has overstepped its remit by moving from its remit of health into matters of social affairs.Under the new terms, heterosexual single men and women, and gay men and women, who want to have children would be given the same priority as couples seeking in vitro fertilisation because of medical fertility problems.David Adamson, one of the authors of the new standards, said: "The definition of infertility is now written in such a way that it includes the rights of all individuals to have a family, and that includes single men, single women, gay men, gay women."It says an individual's got a right to reproduce whether or not they have a partner. It's a big change. It fundamentally alters who should be included in this group and who should have access to healthcare. It sets an international legal standard. Countries are bound by it."Critics called the decision "absurd nonsense" as they raised concerns that couples with medical infertility could lose the chance for a child if government authorities rewrite their rules.The new definitions drawn up by the World Health Organisation's international committee monitoring on assisted reproductive technology will be sent to every health minister for consideration next year.Gareth Johnson, a British MP and former chairman of a parliamentary group on infertility, whose own children were born thanks to fertility treatment, said: "I'm in general a supporter of in vitro fertilisation. But I've never regarded infertility as a disability or a disease but rather a medical matter."I'm the first to say you should have more availability of in vitro fertilisation to infertile couples, but we need to ensure this whole subject retains credibility."This definition runs the risk of undermining work that has been done to ensure in vitro fertilisation treatment is made available for infertile couples. I think it's trying to put in vitro fertilisation into a box that it doesn't fit into, frankly."Many health and legal experts commented that countries were unlikely to adopt the World Health Organisation's standards wholesale, not least because there could be other consequences to altering the definition of infertility.In many countries it is illegal to pay surrogates, resulting in a severe shortage of women wanting to take on the role. Similarly, there are shortages of sperm and eggs, with donors only able to receive expenses."Because wanting to have children would be defined as a disability, it could well strengthen the case of gay couples to be allowed access to commercial surrogates," said Jonathan Montgomery, Professor of Health Care Law at University College London.Josephine Quintavalle, from Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: "This absurd nonsense is not simply re-defining infertility but completely sidelining the biological process and significance of natural intercourse between a man and a woman. How long before babies are created and grown on request completely in the lab?"The controversy broke as the American Society for Reproductive Medicine annual congress heard the 10 millionth in vitro fertilisation baby would be born by the end of 2020. Official figures estimate that by 2013, 6.5 million had been born using the technique since the first in vitro fertilisation birth in 1978. - ©The Daily Telegraph

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