IVF in Europe: what’s legal and where

Although IVF and donor conception is now legislated in almost all European countries, a new study has revealed just how large the difference between countries is – did you know that egg donation is illegal in Germany?

A recent survey of ART laws across Europe has revealed that almost all countries now have specific assisted reproduction laws, with the exceptions of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ireland, Romania and Ukraine.

The study, conducted by the European IVF Monitoring Consortium of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, found that while there has been a shift towards unity on a number of issue, such as the removal of anonymity in sperm and egg donation, how fertility treatments are controlled and made available still varies widely from country to country.

The greatest legal variants were found in access to treatment according to age or relationship status, egg and sperm donation, fertility preservation, and public funding.

Eleven of the 43 countries surveyed limit IVF treatment to heterosexual couples with a diagnosis of infertility, which rules out treatment for single and lesbian women. These countries include Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Turkey.

France is currently in the process of changing its laws to include single and lesbian women.

Thirty-four of the countries surveyed legislate IVF age limits. The maximum age for women ranges from 45 years in Denmark and Belgium to 51 in Bulgaria.

While sperm donation is allowed in almost all European countries, egg donation is banned in Germany, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.

Limits on the number of babies originating from the same sperm donor exist in 30 countries, including Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden and UK. Limits to the number of women who can have children from the same donor range from two for Slovenia, to 12 for Denmark.

Despite a move by many European counties to giving donors the right to identifying information about their donor, strict anonymity remains the law in 18 countries, including France. In some of these countries anonymity applies to recipients but the born children can have access to donors’ identity when they reach a certain age.

The freezing of eggs and sperm for the preservation of fertility ahead of cancer treatment is allowed in all countries, but non-medical egg freezing is not permitted in Austria, France, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Serbia and Slovenia.

Public funding systems are wildly variable throughout Europe. Four countries, including Ireland, provide no financial assistance to patients. The most generous public funding countries are Denmark, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic, and Slovenia.

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