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South Australia Has Backflipped On IVF Blanket Ban

This is a group already on a rollercoaster of hope and despair. They didn’t need another ride.

It was 24 hours of panic that South Australian women in the middle of IVF cycles simply did not need.

After last week’s federal government ban on elective surgery, IVF (in vitro fertilisation) clinics nationwide had to break the devastating news to their patients that no new rounds can commence and no one who needs it can start treatment.

Yet another painful consequence of the coronavirus.

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For most couples, the decision to turn to IVF comes at the end of many frustrating months or even years. Now the coronavirus is making that emotionally, physically and financially grueling journey even tougher.

But most clinics nationwide advised that patients midway through an egg collection cycle should be able to complete their round.

As could women needing to freeze their eggs before cancer treatment.

Some clinics also advised that they could possibly continue to transfer frozen embryos, as that does not require an operating theatre or much medical protective equipment.

That was the case in South Australia too, until late Tuesday afternoon.

A new blanket ban on all procedures except those needed to preserve life and limb within 24 hours was imposed by the South Australian Police Commissioner using his emergency powers as State Coordinator.

Suddenly, IVF doctors and patients in the state were scrambling to figure out if that overrode nationwide protocols.

Most couples on the gruelling IVF journey understand why treatments have to be postponed. Image: Getty

They argued that to cancel midway through an egg collection cycle not only meant a patient was pumped full of ovulation stimulation drugs for weeks for nothing, but could also put women at risk of severe health complications.

Late Wednesday, Commissioner Grant Stevens issued a new directive saying he had received expert medical advice and that treatment cycles underway can be completed. He also confirmed that women about to undergo cancer treatment were indeed exempt.

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The South Australian Health Minister Stephen Wade said the reversal was a sign that the government was listening to the community, public health advice, and would fine-tune directives as required.

Of course, allowances need to be made for the fact we are in unprecedented times requiring quick decisions. Inevitably, mistakes will be made. Recognising those mistakes and fixing them quickly shows good faith by our leaders.

Fertility treatment is punishing. The drugs are strong and several have to be injected every day, messing with health, hormones and emotions. Add to that the financial strain and, for some, the feeling of failure for needing it in the first place.

Most couples on the gruelling IVF journey understand why treatments have to be postponed during the coronavirus crisis. Just because they get it intellectually, though, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt or feel so unfair.