Charities warn of discrimination over access to fertility treatment

    Parents with a history of mental illness could be denied IVF
    treatment under new proposal, mental health campaigners have
    warned.

    A consultation launched by the Human Fertilisation and
    Embryology Authority on protecting children born through fertility
    treatment includes a proposal to get social services to assess
    parents’ histories of mental illness.

    Angela McNab, chief executive of the HFEA, said: “We know that
    social workers have a wealth of experience in assessing child
    protection issues and are likely to have valuable information in
    cases such as where there areÉ mental health issues in the
    family.”

    The consultation cites “a history of mental illness” as a “risk
    factor” that could be taken into account in the revised screening
    process.

    But while mental health organisations said they accepted that
    child protection considerations should be “vital” in the screening
    of IVF parents, they warned that ethics decision-makers could be
    swayed by prejudice around mental illness.

    Sophie Corlett, director of policy at Mind, said: “We feel
    strongly that adopting a risk factor based on whether or not the
    parents had experienced mental health problems would be
    discriminatory. Service users would be dismayed if they felt that
    their chances of getting fertility treatment on the NHS were
    damaged.”

    Paul Corry, director of campaigns and communications for mental
    health charity Rethink, called for “fair and equal” treatment by
    IVF providers and adoption services.

    He said: “People who would make good parents are sometimes
    turned down for IVF or adoption because they are not getting the
    right treatment and support for their mental health needs, but many
    children are brought up very successfully by a parent with a mental
    illness.”

    Corry added: “We have heard from people with mental illness who
    were eventually allowed to have IVF treatment or to adopt after
    challenging inappropriate decisions. They must have their cases
    heard on a case-by-case basis like anyone else, not least so their
    rights are respected under the Disability Discrimination Act
    1995.”

    Screening for IVF treatment has long been a controversial issue,
    with some campaigners arguing that any kind of welfare screening of
    parents is “inappropriate”.

    Consultation ends 7 April.

     

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