Free UK fertility treatment 'would boost economy'
Dr Kirsty Horsey
Progress Educational Trust24 June 2006
Research presented today at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Prague, Czech Republic, suggests that the benefits that would come from the UK's government providing free fertility treatment to enable couples to have children would outweigh the initial costs. Based on these findings, the researchers argue that the National Health Service (NHS) should fund three cycles of IVF, as was recommended by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in 2004.
Professor William Ledger, from the University of Sheffield in the UK, assessed the average cost of creating a child using fertility treatment and compared this to the benefit the government would obtain over the child's lifetime. Working with a team of mathematicians and economists, he calculated that the average cost of producing a child through IVF was 12,931 for a woman aged 35. However, the group found that the government would, on average, receive at least 143,000 in taxes alone for the same child over the course of its lifetime. It was estimated that the point at which the government would 'break even' for this child would be at age 33, compared to at age 31 for a naturally-conceived child. The cost of having an IVF child increased with the woman's age - at 42 years old, for example, the cost was almost 42,000 per baby - however, there was still a net overall gain to society in excess of 100,000. This led Professor Ledger to state that the costs of IVF are in fact 'trivial' and 'truly insignificant' in terms of what the child gives to society.
Professor Ledger pointed out that UK provision of NHS-funded IVF varies considerably across the country, despite guidelines having been issued in 2004 aiming to end the 'postcode lottery' of provision and allow all infertile couples meeting certain criteria three free cycles of treatment. Ledger said that, on average, less than one treatment cycle was provided for each infertile couple by the NHS. However, if this increased to the recommended three cycles per couple, over the next two to three years 10,000 more babies could be born following IVF.
'When a government invests in IVF treatment and a baby results it earns the money back through tax and other benefits two years later than if a baby is conceived naturally', explained Ledger, adding that 'helping people with infertility have children is not just a benefit to themselves and their families but also to society'. It should be taken into account that 'there is a huge net positive benefit to society over that child's lifetime', he said.
Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.