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Success Stories

The revolution is moving ahead into the 21st century, with enormous amounts of research and development devoted to helping people who are desperate to have a baby.

Still, infertility is not always seen as an illness. It's not life-threatening, says Wilson. But it can be a devastating, invisible disability. The people who have it look fine, but they don't feel fine.

Several countries in Europe and parts of Australia pay for three in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles under their medical systems. In Canada, the cost is about $4,000 but only Ontario pays for IVF procedures for some reproductive problems, such as blocked Fallopian tubes.

In B.C., government money was available for some time in the 1980's but was later withdrawn. An added wrinkle - was the revamping of Pharmacare last May 1. Until then, the costly medications that go with the procedures (now about $2,000 per cycle) were covered. Now they're not.

Babies may be priceless, but some people have to pay big bucks for them. Many cannot afford even one try. For couples seeking help, their wallets as well as their hearts are on the line.

Dr. Patricia Baird, author of the Royal Commission report on new reproductive technologies, say the problem is that the field is not well regulated or accountable. She says some Canadian clinics are excellent, but others use inappropriate techniques.

"The fact that it's not regulated is holding governments back from funding," says Baird. "They need to be reassured (the funds) will be used in responsible ways that work and are safe."

The position of the B.C. health ministry is that medical services must be deemed medically necessary by a physician to be covered.

Help with infertility isn't, so it isn't covered.

Wilson says she's noticed more anger and dismay about the issue from patients in the past 18 months - more outrage at the system, letter to MLAs and the health ministry and sometimes even hostility toward her. But it's not a political movement that's likely to catch fire - partly because it hurts so much.

"This is not a historically vocal group," says Wilson. "It's such a sensitive emotional situation that many people are not willing to be identified. Some people go through the whole procedure and nobody knows.

Revelstoke's Ann Jackson, whose daughter Raphaella was IVF baby, agrees:

"It's hard to get infertility patients to be activists. Even talking about it is problematic, let along campaigning."

Vancouver's Karen Justice, who is still trying to repay the money she borrowed for IVF cycles that failed, is living proof.

Although she calls the lack of government money for fertility problems "insane and criminal," she can hardly stand to relive her own experience.

Are these people sick or are they not? Dr. Anthony Cheung of the BC Women's Centre for Reproductive Health and Dr. Albert Yuzpe of the private Genesis Fertility Centre feel they are.

"If you have acute illness you get over, but infertility is an ongoing thing affection both partners," says Cheung.

"Infertility to me, is an illness," says Yuzpe.

"It's not something happens by choice.

"Why separate it into haves and have-nots?"

"We're helping people who are ill."

 

 

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