To help infertile couples in Malta have children, a radical change to the local embryo protection law, including more embryo freezing and gamete donation, is being proposed by the government.
Besides the great ethical and social considerations involved, the possible involuntary killing of many embryos, through thawing, immediately comes to mind. It is the termination of human life at its very beginning. The new law should continue to avoid this probability.
Couples in this position should be informed and helped by the government, through the new law, to increase the chances of getting pregnant by using the natural method of fertility. This consists in eliminating stress as much as possible. Stress has been proven, scientifically, to be a major contributor to infertility.
The government should also inform infertile couples that if they are having trouble conceiving, they should know there are lifestyle factors that affect fertility and that smoking, drinking or medication can be the cause of infertility.
It should also inform infertile couples that in some instances, the cause of infertility is poor sperm quality, which cannot be treated directly.
There are, however, great natural remedies to promote healthier sperm production, function and viability by mitigating the damage from external factors.
In the amended law, infertile couples should be informed also that naturally supplying the body with the extra nutrients it needs during pregnancy can greatly improve fertility, and that beginning this as soon as possible will give the body the best chance of becoming fertile.
The law should also show that a change in lifestyle can help a great deal, as well as adhering to a proper diet. This service is being promoted and developed in Malta based on the UK model by the Malta Unborn Child Movement (MUCM) with the help of nutritionists and dieticians, who can suggest a balanced diet and nutritional supplements as major facilitators.
Psychologists can help as well.
In connection with these changes to the law, Health Minister Chris Fearne has proposed a period of consultation which is very short and should be extended.
He also should find the time to listen to the advice of nutritionists, dietitians and psychologists, among others, and make provisions in the law accordingly.
The success rate of treating infertility using IVF and embryo freezing is around 25 per cent practically everywhere in the world, aside from the much higher physical, emotional and financial cost. IVF users describe “the stress, pain and suffering that all the families going through the IVF route experience”.
The government should consider the natural method to treat infertility more seriously before pushing IVF, embryo freezing and gamete donation much further through very risky legislation.
Not to mention the commodification, and commercialisation, of early human life, which, abroad, is already rife.
Fearne should be congratulated for affirming that “the use of any technology to discover, pre-implantation, whether an embryo has chromosomal defects will not be allowed, nor will the selection of embryos according to gender, and cloning will remain illegal”.
On the other hand, Malta has to unfreeze the mentality, on a national level, that the only solution to infertility is IVF and embryo freezing, with the multiple risks of killing embryos, very early human life, in the process.
Infertile couples should be guided by the government to go for the natural method to treat infertility. The MUCM is doing that. The success rate of the natural method is 80 per cent, which is very good compared to IVF and embryo freezing.
This holds for gamete donation and surrogacy, proposed also in the new law.
Considering that Fearne, who is piloting the changes to the embryo protection law, has decided to keep the same name for that law, he should consider very seriously including also the natural method to fertility in the proposed reconstructed law, so that he will really be safeguarding, as he claims, “the most precious of rights – the right to life”.
Tony Mifsud is coordinator of the Malta Unborn Child Movement.