Infertility Treatment Ethics

Recent reports on the death of a Haifa doctor from complications following fertility treatments, as well as rising premature births in Israel and the inadequate care facilities for premature babies, writes Deborah Greniman, ought to sound an alarm about women’s health issues.

Fertility treatments are a means of controlling women’s bodies, she writes, and making the treatments available has wide-ranging support from the medical and religious establishments and the national ethos, as well as from women themselves who seek treatment.

Fertility treatments, associated with 20% of all premature births in Israel, are causing a rise in premature births, overcrowding intensive care nurseries. Since 1993 the percentage of premature births in Israel rose by 40% as compared to a 15% rise in the total birth rate. Often the numbers of premature babies needing intensive care exceeds by 30%-50% the number of incubators. This can cause disability or irreversible damage and even death. The ratio of premature babies to medical staff with appropriate specialized training is, in Israel, one of the highest in the world.

Fertility treatments are available in Israel almost without limitation. The question is: What price are we willing to pay – in the health of women and newborns, and others – in order for women to become pregnant? Certainly some price, says Greinman, but not any price.