In-Vitro Fertilization (“IVF”) is the process through which a woman’s eggs are surgically removed from her body, and mixed with sperm in a laboratory to create an embryo. The embryo is then inserted back into the woman’s uterus with the aim of creating a pregnancy. In Cyprus, IVF is a popular method of medically assisted reproduction which allows couples struggling with fertility problems to become parents. The Medically Assisted Human Reproduction Law of 2015 (the “Law”) contains the regulations and guidelines that must be followed when a couple decides to undergo IVF treatment, and this article aims to explain some of the key provisions under this law.
General principles governing IVF
Section 16 of the Law contains the general principles that apply to all methods of medically assisted reproduction, including IVF. Subject to Section 16, IVF treatment is available only where it is impossible for a child to be conceived naturally, or where there is a risk of transmitting a serious illness to a child. Importantly, the Law states that throughout the IVF process, the best interests of the child to be born should always be taken into account.
Before the IVF process begins, the couple wishing to have a child must be advised about the procedure, and specifically the potential successes and risks associated with it, as well as the possibility of creating more than one embryo. Additionally, they must also be informed about the ethical, medical, psychological, and economic consequences of undergoing IVF treatment. Following this, the couple must provide their written consent in order to start the procedure.
Conditions for undergoing IVF treatment
Section 21 contains further conditions that must be satisfied before a couple can undergo IVF treatment. Firstly, IVF treatment is only available for adults above the age of 18, and there is a maximum age limit of 50 years for women. However, an exception may be granted to women over 50 by the Medically Assisted Human Reproduction Council if there are specific reasons for doing so.
In addition, there is a range of laboratory tests that must be undertaken by the couple, in accordance with the Quality and Safety Standards (Donation, Supply, Inspection, Processing, Maintenance, Storage, and Distribution) of Human Tissue, Cells, and By-Products Law of 2007. There are different tests required depending on who will supply the gametes (egg and sperm) for the procedure, for example, if it is two partners undergoing treatment using their own gametes, or if there are gametes being supplied by a third-party donor. The aim of these laboratory tests is to detect if there are any illnesses that can be transmitted to the child.
Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis and Research
Once the couple has satisfied the above conditions to undergo IVF treatment, and their written consent has been provided to begin the procedure, then, according to Section 19 of the Law, they have the option to provide their written consent to have a preimplantation genetic diagnosis. This is a medical procedure performed to determine whether the embryo is a carrier of any genetic abnormalities, with the aim of preventing the birth of a child with defects.
Section 20 of the Law also states that research can be conducted on the gametes of the couple in order to acquire information for the successful implantation of the embryo, and to ensure a healthy pregnancy and the birth of a healthy child. The research protocol of the National Bioethics Committee will be followed, and the gametes provided for research cannot be used to create an embryo.
Restrictions imposed by the Law
There are certain practices that are prohibited with regards to the IVF procedure, and these are stated in Section 18 of the Law. Firstly, an embryo can only be created at the time when a couple intends to undergo the IVF procedure. Embryos cannot be created with the intention to sell, or provide them to a couple at a later stage. Moreover, in the case of a same-sex couple wishing to undergo IVF treatment, only one partner may provide their gametes, as there cannot be mixing of gametes from the two partners.
Furthermore, a couple cannot choose the gender of the child through IVF, unless there is a medical reason for doing so, such as to avoid serious inherited diseases linked to gender. In this case, the written approval of the Medically Assisted Human Reproduction Council must be obtained.
In conclusion, IVF is a key method of medically assisted reproduction that can offer a couple the opportunity to become parents. The Law contains the framework governing IVF procedure, and it aims to protect the couple and safeguard the best interests of the unborn child to ensure a positive and healthy outcome for all. Given that the IVF process can be mentally and physically challenging, it is crucial that the couple receives thorough guidance from a licensed medical institution that can carry out the procedure according to the requirements of the Law.
The content of this article is valid as at the date of its first publication. It is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you seek professional advice on your specific matter before acting on any information provided. For further information or advice, please contact Stella Hadjiloucas, Legal Consultant, Tel 25363685 or email Stella.Hadjiloucas@kyprianou.com