A fertility clinic in Amsterdam has announced it is to offer egg freezing techniques on social grounds, despite professional bodies recommending that the procedure be investigated further. If other clinics follow suit, the moves means that women in the Netherlands who wish to delay pregnancy for non-medical reasons, such as being single or developing a career, may be able to freeze their eggs for later use in life.
Professor Sjoerd Repping of Amsterdam’s Academic Medical Centre, which is offering the technique, said: 'It is not so much good news for us as gynaecologists and biologists but for women who have difficulties in planning when they should have children because they don't have a partner. For them it is a great step forward'.
Although many Dutch MPs accept it is not necessary to prohibit women up to the age of 45 from freezing their eggs for social reasons, health minister Edith Schippers expressed surprise at the move since the plan had not received approval from the Central Committee on Research.
In 2010, the Dutch Government requested guidance from two professional bodies, the Dutch Association for Obstetrics and Gynaecology and the Association for Clinical Embryology, which classified the technique as 'experimental' and recommended that approval for offering it was needed from the Central Committee on Research.
Approval was based on the condition that egg freezing be offered in the context of a scientific study aimed at providing further data about the technique. However, a study protocol put together by IVF clinics was rejected for not fulfilling the requirements of a scientific study.
This led IVF clinics to develop their own guidelines for offering the treatment. Professor Jan Kremer at the St Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen, said: 'We have therefore drawn up our plans. We don't need permission, as this is only seen as a careful introduction of a new technique and not scientific research'.
In response to this decision, Schippers said she has successfully requested parliamentary support to continue talks with the professional bodies in order ascertain that the technique is now 'sufficiently safe to be applied more broadly than just in the context of a scientific study'.
The Christian Union party opposes the technique being offered on non-medical grounds and has requested a parliamentary debate to discuss its 'impact on society'.