For the first time couples in Ireland will be eligible for financial aid for fertility treatments, after the Government signed off new proposals last week.
Health Minister Simon Harris presented a draft of the Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR) Bill to Cabinet, which included an examination of how other countries, particularly the United Kingdom, have funded IVF treatments in order to see which scheme would work best in Ireland.
Mr Harris explained that the 'new legislation is the first time that a comprehensive package of measures has been drafted for the area of AHR as a whole. It has been long called for and is a very important milestone'.
The legislation will allow couples access to funding regardless of household income. Fertility treatment can be financially restrictive for couples who require treatment, as each IVF cycle costs approximately €4500-6000. The plans will allow the Government to decide how many funded cycles each couple is permitted to receive. Although all will have access to funding, it is understood that the number of funded cycles is likely to be means-tested.
The proposed Assisted Reproduction Regulatory Authority, an independent body, will be set up to oversee the clinics and regulate the conditions surrounding gamete and embryo donations. Regulations are expected to include prohibition of commercial surrogacy and payment for gamete donations, and monitoring research involving embryos and stem cells.
The authority will have responsibility to ensure 'the welfare and best interests of children born through AHR' are maintained as part of the ethical framework of the legislation.
The Bill will have to undergo pre-legislative examination by the Oireachtas Committee, subject to Government approval, for the financial aid to be in place for 2019. However, there are many questions regarding the Bill that must be addressed before it can become law, including the level of subsidy and whether preimplantation genetic diagnosis will be covered for those who require it.