September 27, 2011

Fertility tourism?

Sun, sea and sand, food, festivals, cultural heritage... There are many reasons why foreign visitors have been coming to the Costa del Sol for decades. But these are not the only ones. In recent years a new attraction has joined the list: assisted reproduction. Every year around a thousand foreign women visit Malaga to undergo treatment in its fertility clinics.

According to data from the European Fertility Society, some 25,000 women travel to other countries every year for assisted reproduction treatment. Approximately a third of them, come to Spain, mainly to Madrid, Barcelona, Levante and the Costa del Sol.

The practice has become known as reproductive or fertility tourism (a term specialists are not fond of), and in some clinics the demand from abroad far exceeds that from local residents, reaching 70 per cent or 80 in some of them.

Spanish legislation (almost all techniques are permitted here, except commercial surrogacy and gender selection) and the growing prestige of the clinics are the main reasons behind the increasing numbers of foreign couples who turn to Malaga’s specialists to become parents.

They come from a wide range of countries: from Belgium, France, Norway or Germany and even Australia and the United States. However the majority are from the UK and, especially, Italy. In fact since the Berlusconi government banned the donation of both eggs and semen in 2004, the numbers of Italian visitors have increased. In the case of Britain, donation is permitted but a change in the law a couple of years ago meant that donor anonymity is no longer guaranteed. This has resulted in a fall in the number of receivers and especially voluntary donors and waiting lists are longer.

Carmen Calatayud, president of the National Association of Assisted Reproduction Clinics, states: “Although at first the main reason that brought foreigners to Spain for treatment was the Assisted Reproduction Law, which was much more progressive than in other countries, the quality of care, professionalism and good results from our centres have made the demand for treatment from foreigners increase”. The head of the Assisted Reproduction unit at Hospiten, Emilia Ocón, adds that “important infrastructure, hotel services and the climate combine to make Malaga the ideal place to come to for a few days for fertility treatment”.

The average cost of this type of treatment is around 5,000 euros. Nevertheless there seems to be no shortage of foreign couples prepared to pay the sum, plus their travel and accommodation costs. The success rate makes it worth it, the average is around 60 per cent, although this rises to 70 per cent in the case of donated eggs, the most effective and most common treatment among foreign patients, along with semen donation.

The majority of foreigners who come to Malaga for fertility treatment are heterosexual but there are also homosexuals and single women.

Carmen Calatayud points out that the women seeking treatment tend to be over 40 (the average age is 43) for egg donations and over 37 for other treatments. Patients over the age of 50 are not normally accepted, according to the recommendations of the Reproduction Commission.

Adapted from Sur in English

  1. How many different kinds of tourism can you think of?.
  2. What do you think are the main reasons why people travel ?.
  3. Would you choose a foreign destination for a fertility treatment?


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