Bioethics Blogs

Cross Post: Ideas for Australia: Rethinking funding and priorities in IVF – should the state pay for people to have babies?

Written by Professor Julian Savulescu and Professor Kelton Tremellen

This is a cross posting of an article which was originally published at The Conversation

How much should the state spend on helping people to have children? At present, government support for infertility treatment is approximately A$240 million a year. The success of fertility treatments such as IVF is good if you are under 35 years of age, but once a woman hits 40 it plummets, falling to an almost futile one-in-80 chance of producing a baby for women 45 years and older. This raises the question – is IVF a cost-effective use of taxpayers’ money? And what about for older women?

Decisions about funding are usually made on grounds of cost-effectiveness. In Australia, the cost-effectiveness threshold is about A$40,000 per “QALY”. A QALY is a quality adjusted life year. Thus the government will spend, for example, A$40,000 to add a year of full health, or improve the quality of life by 10% for 10 years.

Is IVF cost-effective? It depends on how we measure it.

The life of the child

If we count the life of the child who is produced by reproduction as a benefit, then IVF for infertility is highly cost-effective. Latest figures state that more than 13,000 babies were born through IVF treatment, at an average cost to government of A$19,000 per child.

Likewise pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to test for genetic disorders in potentially fertile couples is cost-effective. Genetic testing costs on average A$3,000-$5,000 per cycleof IVF, plus the additional IVF treatment costs.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.