The United States should adopt a law similar to what is practiced in Sweden allowing, in most cases, only single-embryo transfers during in vitro fertilization treatment, according to an essay published Thursday in the Hastings Center Report.
Infertility doctors have been urged for several years to voluntarily limit the number of embryos transferred during IVF in order to avoid multiple births, such as the famous eight babies born last year to Los Angeles resident Nadya Suleman after IVF treatment.
Studies show that success rates are still good in healthy women when only one embryo is transferred instead of two or three. But the informal policy, while reducing the rate of high-order multiples, hasn't had as much success in lowering the rate of twin births. Any birth of multiples increases the risks of complications to both the babies and mothers and significantly increases healthcare costs. Many couples would rather have twins or triplets than pay out-of-pocket for multiple single-embryo transfers to build their families, notes the author of the opinion, David Orentlicher, of the Indiana University School of Law.
That's why he suggests that the United States enact legal limits to transfer only one embryo. Double-embryo transfer could be permitted for women at low risk of multiple births or because of a woman's age or medical history. Such a law reduced multiple births in Sweden from 35% to 5%, he said in his report.
"If the outcomes were similar to those in Sweden, and if transfer restrictions were coupled with insurance coverage of IVF, the restrictions would not limit reproductive rights," Orentlicher wrote.
— Shari Roan
Photo: One of the Suleman octuplets born in January 2009. Credit: Associated Press.