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Israel: A fertility power or have we crossed the line long ago?

Israel spends more than half a billion NIS a year on IVF funding -- some of which would surely be better used paying for numerous life-saving drugs
Illustrative. Syringes and medical vials for IVF treatment. (iStock)
Illustrative. Syringes and medical vials for IVF treatment. (iStock)

Miriam and David got married years ago. David has nine siblings and Miriam has four siblings. Having both come from large families, they were interested in establishing their own family. After nine years of failed attempts to get pregnant, the doctor offered the couple an innovative treatment called In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), and indeed the couple succeeded to get pregnant. Now, because this problem is widespread, IVF has gained momentum and Israel had become the leading country in the world in this procedure (according “ESHRE”, European Fertility and Embryology Organization data). IVF treatments are given almost unconditionally for the birth of the first and second child for any women up to the age of 45 – higher than any other country in the world.

One attempt to use IVF treatment costs $ 4,750. Israel spends more than half a billion NIS a year on IVF funding while there are numerous life-saving drugs that are not funded. Israel, which has a budget deficit, restricts the funding of hospital beds and life-saving medicines, but does not critique the process of IVF treatment and does not examine methods that operate in parallel Western countries.

Why have we become a fertility power? In Israel, the family unit importance is cultural, religious, historical, and some may even say demographic. But the increased fertility treatments, come at the expense of other things, and there is no real public debate about the economic implications of the generosity of fertility treatments. Sarit Magen in her book “A Child of Your Own — Behind the Curtain of Fertilization Treatments in Israel” interviewed many figures in Israeli society who were left unsuccessful after the dream of becoming parents. They accuse the government of not mentioning that their chances are extremely-low during the agonizing treatments.

Since 2008, the number of countries providing public funding for fertility treatments has increased, but the amount of funding has declined. In most countries treatments are provided until the age of 40, with the understanding that the chances are reduced by almost 50% by the age of 39. Also, the number of attempts is limited to 2-3 attempts. In Israel, the number of attempts is almost unlimited until the age of 45, so a 43-year-old woman can perform 10 attempts at pregnancy, despite her low chances, the state will pay $ 50,000 with no success and she will gain false hope. Some say that if the economic aspect was their own burden then perhaps they would consider giving up this nightmare.

On the other hand, without government funding, couples would have difficulty becoming parents financially since the costs of the procedure can reach the sums of a small apartment- Are we interested in preventing those who have this difficulty, in becoming family? To be honest, I am the daughter of Miriam and David, the result of a successful IVF treatment. My parents went through the treatments after years of failing and yet I believe we should act differently. The usage of IVF treatments is increasing every year and there is no guarantee that the state will be able to fund this significant benefit in the far future. Israel should explore new ways to balance the costs and quality of IVF treatments and to avoid treatments that have low chances of success or a high risk for the patient or her children. I believe that Israel must be the kind of state that subsidizes fertility treatments, because of the values it occupies. However, it must learn from other Western countries and consider cost-benefit considerations. Avoiding useless treatments is important not only for economic reasons but also to avoid creating false hopes. We should consider lowering the recommended maximum age for IVF treatment and promote information to the treated, presenting the chances and risks that may arise for a woman and her baby. In this way, we can continue sanctifying life while avoiding useless treatments.

About the Author
Or Samia is a fourth year Law and Government student at the Harry Radzyner Law School at the Interdisciplinary Center. She is currently participating in the Argov Fellowship for Leadership and Diplomacy, a program that seeks to prepare exceptional IDC students in their final year of their BA studies for future leadership positions in Israel and in the Jewish world. In the army Or served as a commending officer for the designated officers track for five years. At IDC, where she is on the dean's list, Or volunteered as the head of publicity and advertising of academy department in the IDC student union and as a fellow of the "StandWithUs" fellowship. Or participated a Clinic at Tel Aviv District – taxation and economics and nowadays participates at the Clinic for social legislation led by Advocate Ilan Jonas.
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