Thu, Sep 04, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Medical sector urges lift on ban

TRAVELOnly 20 percent of countries, including Taiwan, limit assisted reproduction to married couples, but this has not prevented Taiwanese seeking treatment abroad

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

The medical sector urged the government yesterday to lift a ban on unmarried individuals’ access to assisted reproduction technology, arguing that the restriction simply forces those desperate to have a child to undergo the procedure overseas.

The issue became a topic of debate last month when entertainer Pauline Lan (藍心湄) said she lost a baby conceived through third-party reproduction in Japan.

Lan was the second Taiwanese entertainer after Pai Ping-ping (白冰冰) known to have tried to become pregnant through the help of a sperm bank in Japan.

Lee Mao-sheng (李茂盛), an obstetrician and gynecologist who runs a fertility clinic in Taichung City, said that a sluggish economy has led to a 10 percent decline in the number of infertile patients seeking assisted reproduction at his clinic over the past 10 years.

In contrast, the number of unmarried individuals interested in assisted reproduction has increased 10-fold, he said.

Lee said some were cohabitating couples who had no immediate plans to get married or single mothers who wanted to give their children a new sibling.

Others seeking help are infertile women required by would-be in-laws to prove their fertility and single women who aspire to motherhood but have no desire to have a relationship, Lee said.

Local doctors have no way to help these people, however, as the law strictly limits assisted reproduction to legally married couples, said Chang Sheng-ping (張昇平), head of the reproductive endocrinology division at Taipei Veterans General Hospital.

Chang said that in the past when Taiwan did not require marriages to be registered, some single individuals seeking the procedure could pretend to be married by presenting a notarized marriage certificate to their doctor.

That loophole has been closed for good, however, after the government required that marriages be registered with the authorities starting this year. Now, doctors must check the spouse column on patients’ identification cards to confirm they are married, Chang said.

Worldwide, 50 percent of countries accept cohabitating couples as recipients of assisted reproduction technology.

Some 30 percent set no restrictions, with single women and lesbian couples also accepted, he said.

Only 20 percent of countries, including Taiwan, still limit assisted reproduction to married couples, mainly because of ethical concerns, he said.

The restriction, however, cannot prevent unmarried individuals from seeking assistance abroad, as in the cases of Lan and Pai, Lee and Chang said.

Furthermore, the restriction could be a major barrier to the country’s efforts to promote medical tourism, in which assisted reproduction has been advertised by the government as a field in which Taiwan’s medical sector enjoys a competitive edge, they said.

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