Fertility Treatment Abroad

Fertility treatment in the United States can be an arduous and complicated journey. The myriad of legal and ethical issues surrounding fertility treatment are vast and complex and are often made more complex if you are seeking treatment outside of your home country.

The World Health Organization reported that between 20,000-25,000 couples travel abroad annually seeking fertility treatments. The popularity of this medical tourism or cross-border reproductive care is driven by the relatively low cost of medical treatment, quality of medical care, avoidance of waiting lists, and accessibility to foreign countries.

The cost of fertility treatment is one of the most popular reasons for patients to seek help outside of the United States. For example, in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment in Turkey costs on average $8,500, which is considerably lower than the United States. Norway, Sweden, and Spain, to name a few, charge an average range of $4,500 to $5,700 for infertility treatment. Pakistan and Iran offer probably one of the most inexpensive costs for IVF cycles starting around $1,200. In addition to the cost of the actual infertility treatment however, you must remember to also factor in the total cost of flights, other transportation, lodging, international visas, meals, taking time from work, etc.

If you travel overseas, remember that the laws of your home country no longer cover you. You will need to  research the law in the foreign countries you are considering to see what is permitted and what is prohibited in regards to fertility treatment. Some processes or techniques are permissible in one country but banned in another country. For example, Turkey, China, and Indonesia will only permit IVF for married couples and New Zealand requires a “stable, nuclear family” to raise the child. In contrast, Spain, Sweden, and the United States will allow IVF treatments for single people and same-sex couples. Surrogacy is illegal in many countries, such as Japan, China, and Saudi Arabia, but is completely legal in India. Be mindful, too, of other legal and ethical rules. The list below outlines a few regulations to be aware of (but is in no way a comprehensive, complete list):

  • Selection process for embryos, including sex selection and genetic screening
  • Maximum number of embryos that can be transferred
  • Maximum storage time for frozen embryos
  • Use of frozen sperm or embryos after the death of a partner
  • In vitro development period allowed for embryos

Since the legality of certain fertility treatments vary widely among countries, it’s important to seek expert legal advice before proceeding with infertility treatment overseas.

Once you have chosen a foreign country for infertility treatments, researched and chosen a clinic, factored in all of the costs associated with travel and the treatment, what happens if something goes wrong during the procedure? Hopefully this will not happen to you, but it is always better to be prepared and plan ahead. For starters you might want to consider specialized insurance for your journey. Asking the clinic and/or hospital about safety policies that are in place is also a good starting point. Some other topics to inquire about are:

  • Infection rates in the clinic and/or hospital
  • If the clinic is associated with a hospital and the distance/mileage from the clinic to the hospital
  • Satisfaction rates for past clients at the fertility clinic

Traveling abroad for any type of medical treatment, especially infertility treatment, can be a risky yet rewarding experience. The ART law team at ThompsonMcMullan wants you to be well informed about your infertility options, whether  you go abroad or stay in your home country. As always, we are here to assist and provide guidance as you weigh the options of how best to grow your family.

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