The Malta Health Students’ Association, MHSA, issued a press release clarifying the IVF law amendments which came into effect on the 1st October, 2018.
MHSA explained that In Vitro Fertilisation, IVF, is one of the most effective forms of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) performed to treat infertility or genetic problems which hinder fertilisation. The old law stated that IVF can only be provided to heterosexual couples. As the new law changed the legal definition of “prospective parent”, the treatment is now available to all women aged 18 - 48, regardless of their sexual orientation and relationship status. The organisation furthered that IVF has been available at Mater Dei Hospital since 2013.
Furthermore, MHSA stated that the new law allows doctors to fertilize up to 3 eggs in the 1st cycle, and five eggs in any subsequent cycle. With the prospective parents’ consent, any unclaimed embryos may be given up for adoption. Prior to this amendment, a maximum of three eggs could be fertilised, while all the embryos produced had to be transferred to the womb. Additionally, the new law states that embryos shall be put up for adoption if the parents do not renew the 5-year certificate, or if the prospective mother reaches 43 years of age. Once adoption takes place, the original parents lose all rights to the embryo.
The organisation added that the new law permits embryo freezing, subject to an agreement between the prospective parents and the authority. A five-year permit can be issued allowing them to freeze extra embryos if they agree to give up unclaimed embryos for adoption.
With the updated law, stated MHSA, gamete donations may be carried out by individuals over the age of 18 and under 36 years of age, while prospective parents have access to the identity of the donor. Gamete donations can also be made through sperm and oocyte banks. In this case, the parents would not know the identity of the donors. Only one donor can be used per individual.
Surrogacy, on the other hand, remains illegal. Doctors caught participating in IVF embryo transfer can be fined up to €15,000 and be imprisoned for up to 3-years. Nonetheless, Health Minister Chris Fearne has stated that this part of the law (Altruistic Surrogacy) will be subject to a public consultation exercise. This gives the LGBTI community the possibility of becoming parents. Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) and other research involving embryos is not permissible by either version of the law.