Refusing fertility treatment on age grounds 'unjust'

IT IS fundamentally wrong and unjust to refuse fertility treatment to women in their late 30s or early 40s, Professor Robert Winston, a pioneer of in vitro fertilisation, said yesterday.

Professor Winston cited the case of Julie Seale, 37, who was refused NHS fertility treatment by Sheffield district health authority because she was over 35. The health authority had imposed the age limit because of limited resources.

'It is fundamentally wrong. It is fundamentally unjust and it doesn't make good economic sense,' Professor Winston, head of fertility studies at the Hammersmith Hospital, said at the Science Museum, London, which is mounting a new exhibition to publicise the causes of infertility.

Many women are delaying having children to continue working and are finding they have fertility problems as a result of wanting to start a family late, he said.

Despite making contributions to the country's economy, these working women are being discriminated against on the grounds of age. Professor Winston said that he would treat pre-menopausal women regardless of age, if they had a medical condition. He would not treat women after the menopause because the menopause is a biological not a medical condition.

'We are paying lip-service to equality in society, with men and women being equal in the workplace, but then saying women are too old to have fertility treatment,' he said. 'If we're going to have a society where men and women play an equal role in the workplace, for example, then we have to accept that women are going to develop a career. They will undoubtedly be contributing to the economy of the country.

'They will be producing something important for society, and for society then to turn round . . . and say we're not going to fund your treatment because you're now too old is fundamentally wrong.'

Professor Winston said many unemployed people are also being refused fertility treatment on the grounds of not being fit to have children. 'I see patients all the time who say they can't get treatment because they are unemployed. There are some fundamental wrongs about the judgements being made. There is no evidence at all that an unemployed person can't bring up a child.' he said.

It is 'nonsense' to say there are scarce resources to spend on fertility treatment. 'I think there are plenty of resources, but I believe those resources are being wasted.'

A prompt diagnosis of the underlying cause of a person's infertility would save money, Professor Winston said. 'There are about 600,000 couples in Britain suffering from infertility and their biggest problem is that far too often treatment is started before a diagnosis is made. This dangerous practice frequently leads to years of anguish and frustration, and wastes huge sums of NHS money.'

Professor Winston said it was 'ludicrous' to have an internal market for in vitro treatment, as there now is within the NHS. 'The truth is that every local hospital is thinking of setting up an IVF unit because it believes it might be commercially valuable and it might produce income. That's nonsense.'

The internal NHS market will not be to the benefit of infertile patients, Professor Winston added.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Renewable Energy Construction Manager

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices