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In 2017, The Word Health Organization (WHO) will officially publish a more expansive definition of how infertility qualifies as a disability. Considered a progressive move, the WHO’s new terms have far reaching consequences and are expected to influence the National Health Service (NHS) to change its current IVF treatment policies.
WHO’s existing definition of infertility does define the disease as a disability, but limits the definition to12 months of unprotected sex without resulting in a clinical pregnancy.
One of the drafters of the WHO terms, Dr. David Adamson, shared that the driving force between redefining infertility was a desire to include all individuals.
“The definition of infertility is now written in such a way that it includes the rights of all individuals to have a family, and that includes single men, single women, gay men, gay women. It puts a stake in the ground and says an individual has got a right to reproduce whether or not they have a partner. It’s a big change,” Adamson said. He continues, “It fundamentally alters who should be included in this group and who should have access to healthcare. It sets an international legal standard. Countries are bound by it.”
While many are delighted with the new classification, the decision has also caused a wave of controversy.
Gareth Johnson MP, former chair of the All Parliamentary Group on Infertility shares, “I’m in general a supporter of IVF. But I’ve never regarded infertility as a disability or a disease but rather a medical matter. I’m the first to say you should have more availability of IVF to infertile couples but we need to ensure this whole subject retains credibility,” he said, adding, “This definition runs the risk of undermining the work NICE and others have done to ensure IVF treatment is made available for infertile couples when you get definitions off the mark like this. I think it’s trying to put IVF into a box that it doesn’t fit into frankly.”
Despite the divide, perhaps the WHO’s new infertility classification might pave the way to acceptance of infertility as a disease for which insurance companies will be mandated to provide coverage.
According to RESOLVE, the national infertility association, only 15 states have laws requiring insurance coverage, and those laws vary greatly by state. Most couples and individuals undergoing infertility treatment have to pay out of pocket, with an average cost of $15,000, which is not easy to do in today’s economy. Infertility is a disease and should be treated just like any other disease, with medical coverage for those suffering from it.