The Polish government abandons funding for In Vitro Fertilization, in exchange for diagnostic technologies that help diagnose and treat infertility
One of the first decisions by Poland’s new Minister of Health, Konstanty Radziwiłł, was an announcement made in December 2015 that the IVF Refund Program, introduced by the former government in July 2013, will be terminated on June 30 this year. Instead, the Ministry will initiate the National Procreative Program, which is to implement solutions used in NaPro (Natural Procreative) Technology. As Radziwiłł explained, this is a plan that is less “ethically abrasive than in vitro.”
“Under this Program we will be achieving various objectives, which, not only at the stage of infertility diagnosing and treatment but also prophylaxis, will be financed from the state budget,” announced the Health Minister in December.
According to Radziwiłł, infertility treatment cannot be reduced to IVF, as it is “an abuse from the substantive and medical point of view.” The politician argues that solutions based on in-depth diagnostics (as in the NaPro Technological approach) are less expensive, more effective and don’t raise ethical doubts.
At the Ministry of Health I am told that “at present intensive work is going on to prepare the Procreative Health Program. It includes the development of the standard of care for couples with fertility problems or infertility, which will systematize the infertility treatment process in Poland.”
“In this respect we will use diagnostic and therapeutic methods recognized globally, and will implement the technologies which are clinically appropriate. The program aims to design an optimal clinical pathway which would fit the needs of a given couple,” assures spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, Ms. Milena Kruszewska.
Kruszewska also points out that treating infertility with NaPro technological methods is simply a diagnostic and therapeutic procedure. “These are commonly available methods, well-known and used for several dozen years. These methods are included in the medical services refunded by the National Health Fund. So, the Program will be an extension of the present diagnostics to cover infertility treatment. Thanks to the orderly clinical pathway and extended diagnostics our patients will have easier access to the state-of-the-art treatment methods, which in the future will translate into an increasing fertility rate in Poland,” says the spokesperson for the Ministry of Health.
Dr. Maciej Barczentewicz, an obstetrician and gynecologist, a member of the Polish Gynecological Society as well as a father of 11, is not so optimistic about the National Procreative Program that is to be based on NaPro Technology. He expressed doubt about whether the same physicians who carry out IVF procedures will overnight start using a different method.
“The only change certain to happen is the termination of the IVF refund mechanism,” says Dr. Barczentewicz. He believes the main problem is the number of medical doctors who deal with NaPro Technology. “There are many more IVF specialists than those who would like to apply natural treatments,” he complains.
Moreover, the media narrative regarding NaPro Technology doesn’t encourage people to use this method. And yet, as Barczentewicz tells Aleteia, in-depth diagnostics and appropriate treatment may turn out to be helpful even in such cases where artificial fertilization failed.
“Thanks to diagnostics and treatment, children are born to women with occluded oviducts, advanced endometriosis, as well as to those whose partners have abnormal semen parameters. Everything is possible,” says Dr. Barczentewicz, while cautioning that some cases are beyond either IVF or NaPro Technology.
Patient age does not seem to be an issue from a NaPro Technological perspective. “We have patients in their forties, even one 46-year-old tried (successfully) for her first child,” Barczentewicz tells Aleteia.
Cost is another consideration. IVF is known to be expensive, each treatment costing thousands of dollars, and several treatments may be necessary. With NaPro Technology the costs are staggered, and Barczentewicz estimates a cost of up to $1000 in the space of a year.
Dr. Barczentewicz ended his remarks by noting that “IVF is not a method of treating infertility. No disease is cured here. In contrast, NaPro Technology is actually based on diagnosing the reasons and on cure.” He feels the Polish Ministry of Health should make every effort to promote this method, which not only assists with infertility but also makes it possible to diagnose numerous abnormalities without raising any moral or ethical doubts. The question is, will doctors trained in IVF be willing to learn NaPro methods?
Marta Brzezińska-Waleszczyk – editor of Aleteia Polska, author of the book Everything you know about sex without contraceptives but are afraid to ask.