A BBC Radio Scotland investigation examining examples of 'fertility tourism' has highlighted the emotional, physical and financial concerns faced by couples travelling abroad to seek fertility treatment.
One couple told journalists they had spent almost £90,000 and remortgaged their home to fund a series of fertility treatments abroad, including the United States, after being denied treatment on the NHS because of age restrictions.
Increasing numbers of patients choose to take the overseas route to pregnancy, driven by a desperate desire to have a baby, the programme said. Professor Richard Fleming, director of the Centre for Reproductive Medicine, suggested one major cause was women starting their families later in life. He was concerned that the public is unaware that human fertility starts declining at the age of 31.
Numerous studies have examined the reasons why couples go overseas for treatment. Infertility Network UK carried out an online 'fertility tourism' survey and found that 76 percent (%) of respondents would consider travelling abroad for treatment. Of those, 70.5% said it was because of shorter waiting times than in the UK, 69.5% gave the cost of treatment as a reason, and 61% pointed to the success rates of conception in clinics abroad.
Dr Francoise Shenfield, an expert on the ethics of fertility treatment from the University College London, explained that 'access for fertility treatment in the UK is much poorer than similar countries of similar economies' and people can't afford to go privately.