Woman, 37, sues health minister after she was told she is 'too old' for IVF
23:16 GMT, 2 December 2012
Under fire: Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is being sued after a 37-year-old woman was refused IVF treatment on the grounds of her age
A woman aged 37 is suing Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt after being told she is too old for fertility treatment.
The woman has been refused IVF treatment by her local primary care trust.
It is believed to be the first time new age-discrimination laws have been used to fight for fertility treatment.
In October, legislation was introduced allowing patients who felt they had been denied treatment because of their age to sue.
It was intended to prevent the elderly being refused operations because doctors assumed they were too frail, but the same laws apply to fertility treatment.
The NHS is meant to fund three courses of IVF for all women aged 23 to 39 under guidelines from the watchdog NICE. But many trusts have drawn up their own rules.
Each course of IVF costs the NHS between 3,000 and 4,000.
The woman’s trust, Berkshire East, will pay for treatment only for couples aged 30 to 34 who have been trying naturally for at least three years.
She and her husband, who wish to remain anonymous, first went to their GP in June after trying unsuccessfully to conceive for three years.
Tests revealed her husband, not her, was suffering from fertility problems.
Nonetheless the PCT is using her age
as the reason for refusal. Because the trust is due to be abolished
because of health reforms, the couple have launched proceedings against Mr Hunt.
Expense: Each course of IVF costs the NHS between 3,000 and 4,000
Lawyers are calling for a judicial review, where a judge will consider the trust’s decision.
Clare Lewis-Jones, of the charity
Infertility Network UK, said: ‘Funding should be available where it is
most likely to benefit people – which is precisely why we have the NICE
‘However, as many PCTs choose to
simply ignore these and instead put in place their own, arbitrary
selection criteria, couples have to fight for the treatment they are
‘If Berkshire East PCT did what they were meant to do, this couple would not be in this unenviable situation today.’