Infertility tourism – the future of fertility treatment?

One of the hottest trends in modern European medicine is medical tourism – where patients travel out of their country to nearby nations in order to receive a particular treatment.

The need to travel out of the country for medical procedures typically comes from the fact that some countries have laws prohibiting or restricting some treatments that other countries allow or are less-restrictive of.

However, with the recent global economic downturn, medical tourism has gone the same way general tourism has – down. According to Keith Pollard of Treatment Abroad, health care spending has largely decreased at a similar rate to consumer spending in Europe.

Yet there is one exception to this downward trend in medical tourism: infertility treatment. In fact, the number of people traveling to other European countries for fertility treatment has actually gone up in the past few years, according to a paper presented at the recent European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual meeting.

Pollard says that infertility treatment is typically “recession proof,” where patients are very intent on receiving treatment and are willing to find any way to pay for it.

And in countries like Italy, where sperm donation is banned, patients are not only forced to find creative ways to pay for it, but must travel outside of their own country to receive donation-related treatments.

Other countries that have related laws affecting fertility treatment are Germany (egg donation), France (assisted conception for single women), and the UK, which requires donor anonymity.

Thus, many Europeans are forced to travel to receive the treatment they wish to pursue. A recent article in Human Reproductive Advance Access showed that nearly two-thirds of people utilizing infertility tourism in Europe came from Italy, The Netherlands, France and Germany.

About 18 percent of those travelling were pursuing semen donation, 22.8% for egg donation and 3.4% for embryo donation.

Could medical tourism be the future of fertility treatment? Would you be willing to travel out of country to receive treatment?

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