Guido Pennings, professor of ethics and bioethics at the University of Ghent, Belgium, told the 21st annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology today (Monday 20 June) that thousands of people travelled between European countries each year, seeking to take advantage of fertility laws that were more liberal in countries other than their own or because treatment was cheaper.
But he said that rather than seeking harmonisation of laws on reproductive medicine across Europe to prevent such tourism, we should accept the existing diversity and recognise that it enables people of different ethical and religious views to live peacefully together.
Prof Pennings said: "The number of movements is increasing because people are more used to travelling, are much better informed about policies in other countries and clinics by means of the internet, and because some clinics facilitate access by foreign patients by offering packages including visas, hotels and interpreters.
"The main causes of reproductive tourism are that a type of treatment is forbidden by law for moral reasons, certain categories of patients are not eligible for assisted reproduction, and the waiting lists are too long."
People seeking fertility treatment were travelling between most European countries now. "There is a general move to former East European centres because of the lower financial costs and towards Spain for oocyte donation (they have more donors because compensation of donors is allowed). In reality there is movement from almost every country to other countries and vice versa."
Prof Pennings said Italy was an example of a country where people were voting with their feet following the new law that bann
Contact: Mary Rice
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology