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Obesity and NHS fertility treatment

January 9, 2014

Debate at the British Fertility Society Sheffield 9 Jan 2014

This house believes that obese patients have the right to NHS fertility treatment

The case against.

Reasons for not providing government funding for fertility treatment for obese patients, fall into two main groups; reasons for not providing infertility treatment in general, and reasons for not providing it specifically to obese parents.

In general infertility treatment does not fulfil any of the widely recognised requirements for state intervention in the market.

1.    It’s not a public good, i.e. something like mosquito control programmes to prevent malaria, which would not be provided in a free market.
2.    There are no beneficial externalities e.g. the accidental benefit to others from treating infectious diseases like TB. Rather in an overpopulated world there may even be net harmful externalities from the resource use of additional people.
3.    State funded infertility treatment does not help the poor, because infertile patients are on average richer.
4.    There is no “rule of rescue” mandating infertility treatment on humanitarian grounds.

Specific extra reasons for not providing NHS fertility treatment to obese patients are as follows.

1.    Obese patients have lower success rates on average than normal weight patients, and if they succeed in becoming pregnant have higher pregnancy complication rates.
2.    Obese parents tend to have obese children and the attendant health complications.  Therefore in the interests of the children we should not subsidize them reproducing.
3.    For many women obesity is a cause of their infertility.  Treating their infertility on the NHS reduces their incentive to lose weight and in the long run imperils their health.
4.    Obese patients are less deserving of fertility treatment than normal weight patients, because it is a self-inflicted problem.  Obesity is caused by over eating and under-exercising.

None of these reasons apply to self-funded obese patients paying for private infertility treatment. Like everyone else, obese people are generally the best judges of their financial and reproductive priorities. Their choices should neither be constrained nor subsidized by government without good reason.

Jim Thornton

7 Comments leave one →
  1. pureform 2000 permalink
    January 9, 2014 4:09 pm

    Don’t know. Never thought about it. Is it a big issue. Date: Thu, 9 Jan 2014 08:06:43 +0000 To:

    • January 10, 2014 10:21 pm

      It is in UK. Many NHS clinics will not treat couples with BMI over 30, or 35. Such policies are endorsed by Brit Fert Society, National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the various local NHS funding bodies.

  2. pureform 2000 permalink
    January 9, 2014 4:22 pm

    So if the fertility treatment works is the new born child in debt to society.? Born into debt….or is it a gift.? From: To: Subject: RE: [New post] Obesity and NHS fertility treatment Date: Thu, 9 Jan 2014 16:09:14 +0000

    Don’t know. Never thought about it. Is it a big issue. Date: Thu, 9 Jan 2014 08:06:43 +0000 To:

  3. January 9, 2014 7:16 pm

    Debate lost, i.e. audience supported NHS treatment of overweight people. But not by much. Maybe it was a bridge too far, to advocate stopping all NHS fertility provision at the British Fertility Society!

  4. John Thornton permalink
    January 9, 2014 9:06 pm

    My (our) dad once said to me, “The important things in life, in no particular order, are good health, a good job and a good love life. And remember two out of three ain’t bad.” We all want things we can’t have. I’m blessed to have three wonderful healthy boys, but we never got a daughter. I would also like a Ferrari, should the state provide that? Of course a facetious arguement, but I can have my Italian Super Car if I work hard enough. Surely it’s not asking too much for obese women (and their partners) to get into some sort of good physical shape before expecting the state to provide.

  5. January 9, 2014 9:36 pm

    Meatloaf said the same, though his two outta three were;”I need you, I want you, But-there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you!”

  6. July 13, 2017 1:30 pm

    If person wants to loose weight he/she should have proper diet.

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