Accounting for Law

No provincial funding for IVF treatments discriminatory

Sara Cohen

The provincial government has no plans for routine funding of in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments – a move Toronto fertility lawyer Sara Cohen says is wrong both legally and ethically.

“I'm, unfortunately, not particularly surprised that Ontario isn't reinstituting its earlier policy to fund IVF,” says Cohen. “I'm disappointed in this decision, especially when we have other jurisdictions in Canada where funding IVF has led to a marked increase in single embryo transfers.”

Ontario's newly re-appointed health minister Deb Matthews has said the government will not be funding the treatment, though some medical experts contend it could save the province in the long run, CBC reports. Read CBC

“I think this policy is wrong - both legally and ethically,” says Cohen.

While IVF - performed in cases of blocked fallopian tubes, advanced reproductive age, low sperm counts and unexplained infertility - has a high success rate, it is the most expensive of fertility treatments and out of reach for many, the CBC report says.

“This decision is discriminatory and means more of the same - other than women with bilaterally blocked fallopian tubes, only people who are medically indicated for IVF who can afford it are able to have children in Ontario,” says Cohen. “This is contrary to the entire principle of public health care.”

In 2007 an expert panel appointed by the Ontario Liberal government recommended that OHIP cover fertility treatments, CBC reports, noting among the panel's reasons was that the province could save hundreds of millions of dollars in long-term health care expenses.

But the provincial government balked at implementing the panel's recommendation, the report says.

“There are many problems with failing to fund IVF,” says Cohen. “First, since IVF is so expensive, when IVF is not funded, people are more likely to transfer two or more embryos, which leads to both extra spending by the province in terms of maternal and neonatal health care and to increased health complications for both the babies and the mothers.

“Secondly, by failing to fund IVF, of all the people for whom IVF is medically indicated, only those who can afford it engage in it. That means that only wealthy people or those who have access to funds are able to afford to address their disability. This flies in the face of the premise of public health care. Unfortunately, despite excellent work by various lobby groups, it seems unlikely that the government is going to make this change anytime soon unless it is forced to do so by the courts.”

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