31 Mar For great fertility care, let’s stay in the EU
Since 1973, when the UK joined the European Union, British citizens have benefitted enormously. And in recent years one sector has particularly flourished: medical travel. Thousands of British patients each year fly to other European countries for private treatment. Why? Because clinics are on our doorstep, affordable and world-class.
Fertility treatment is an example of the trend. In the last 20 years, over 300 fertility clinics have sprung up across the EU. They began serving the local market. They then expanded, attracting a growing number of patients from other member states looking for an affordable, better way to start a family. UK patients, bewildered at the ever-increasing cost of IVF and donor-egg treatment at home, are frequent buyers of fertility care abroad.
In many ways, the fertility sector is the epitome of the European dream. Pioneering clinics have opened their doors to infertile couples across the EU (and beyond). Medical knowledge and expertise have been assimilated and shared. The market has encouraged competition, driving down costs. And heroic individuals – egg and sperm donors – have come forward to help others. This all taps into the spirit of altruism and fraternity which form the bedrock of European identity.
While UK prices for fertility treatment rocket, clinics in countries like the Czech Republic charge reasonable fees for superb care. They are progressive, positive, entrepreneurial and fair. Unlike the UK, the supply of egg and sperm donors is impressive. The pan-European fertility body, ESHRE, ensures standards are high. Strict European fertility legislation keeps clinics in-check. The presence of so many great European clinics at last year’s Fertility Show, as speakers and exhibitors, is a testament to their popularity and reach.
Our view? Remaining in the EU is important for people seeking fertility treatment. The ease with which UK patients can board flights, travel across borders, buy medical services and be further supported back home is a hard-won right. It’s also a luxury, and why throw it away? Free movement makes you feel free. It gives you hope – and hope is what drives the infertility market.
Nobody is saying that if the UK leaves the EU, medical travel will wane. Quite the contrary. Prices will rise even higher in an isolated United Kingdom, forcing even more people to head overseas for their fertility cycles. Barriers to treatment are unlikely.
But staying in the European Union is not just economically sensible. The EU is more than a market. It offers a kinder, more human framework. It creates possibilities for all. It is open, not closed. Together, not solitary.
By allowing access to better, cheaper fertility treatment, the EU has, quite literally, brought new life to thousands of patients. For those happy people, and for others thinking of travelling abroad for IVF treatment, we think it’s a moral duty to stay in the EU. Only then can we taste the dream, and the reality, of European citizenship.