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article imageCanada: Doctors propose denying obese women fertility treatments

By Kim I. Hartman     Sep 21, 2011 in Health
Obese women will have a hard time finding fertility clinics that will provide them with in-vitro fertilization treatments if a proposed ban by Canadian doctors takes effect.
A report by the Globe and Mail says Canada's fertility doctors are considering a measure that would bar obese women from having IVF treatments, stirring a countrywide debate on whether fat people should have the same reproductive rights as their much thinner counterparts.
The Globe and Mail says the proposed policy change is being discussed by fertility doctors at a meeting in Toronto this week. The physicians join doctors in the UK who proposed a similar ban in 2006, saying obese women should be placed on a waiting list until they have lost a reasonable amount of weight to safely become pregnant, while morbidly obese women should be banned from consideration for IVF treatments.
“We’ve had many angry patients say to us, ‘This is discriminatory’ and I say, ‘Yes, it is’ But I still won’t do it,” said Arthur Leader, co-founder of the Ottawa Fertility Centre. The facility where he works will not treat women with a Body Mass Index (a measurement of weight relative to height) of more than 35. A BMI of 30 meets the clinical definition of obese. "A patient doesn’t have the right to make a choice that’s going to be harmful to them,” he said.
Research has found that obese women who try to become pregnant have increased risks of complications, including high blood pressure, strokes, and gestational diabetes. A Yale study concluded that children born to obese women have a greater risk of infertility because they have not been exposed to the 'hunger hormone' while in the womb.
"If you are more than 100 pounds overweight, that issue must be addressed before you start a family,” said Beverly Hanck, executive director of the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada. “Get off your 50 pounds or so and exercise and then see where your fertility is at. A woman can lose 20 pounds and conceivably become pregnant. It could take a year, but it could result in getting pregnant naturally and save thousands of dollars.”
Anthony Cheung, a fertility expert at the University of British Columbia, told the Globe and Mail that the reality of the proposed policy would "deny half the reproductive population from gaining access to fertility treatment.” It would also further stigmatize women with weight issues. Cheung said that BMI alone is not a good measure of which obese patients face the greatest medical risks and makes him wonder about "the biases of our own society."
The controversial proposal comes on the heels of a study released last month which "challenges the idea that all obese individuals need to lose weight," reported CBS News. "The provocative study shows that obese people who are otherwise healthy live just as long as people who are not overweight."
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