Push to review strict IVF rules

Different rules: More couples are heading overseas for IVF. Picture: Michael O'Brien/The West Australain

Strict in-vitro fertilisation laws are causing more couples to go overseas to use donor egg and sperm banks that have fewer rules but unclear standards, a Perth clinic has warned.

PIVET fertility clinic says regulators need to review laws that ban commercial payment for eggs and sperm or stop potential donors helping more than five families, even if some are outside WA.

It comes after reports IVF clinics in some States are increasingly using international egg and sperm banks that can supply Australian couples in days.

But PIVET says WA clinics are unable to access overseas banks because they do not comply with the State's tough laws.

Nurse and donor co-ordinator Anne Wigham said a key issue that needed reviewing was payment for donor egg and sperm, because the line between altruism and commercialism was poorly defined.

In Australia, donors cannot be paid, except for reasonable expenses, and there are long waiting lists for eggs and sperm.

But when British regulators trebled the "compensation" payment for egg donors a few years ago, the number of donors surged and waiting lists disappeared.

Ms Wigham said there were also issues with the five-family limit per donor in WA, and rules governing the donor register.

"We despair about this, as we are aware that a large number of West Australians are proceeding overseas to access donor gametes as well as surrogacy," she said.

"It appears to us that WA legislation is 'shooting ourselves in the foot' for no good purpose and in fact a detrimental purpose because patients have to bypass excellent IVF units in WA to access units of uncertain standards overseas."

Australian Medical Association WA vice-president and obstetrician Michael Gannon said many couples would do anything to have a child, but he cautioned against them using services overseas that were not well-regulated.

"The rules vary from State to State and are reasonably tight here, which means we enjoy good protection," he said. "The AMA would not support donors being paid except for reasonable expenses.

"But globalised medicine means you can get treatment in countries where things are cheaper and there are no rules, and we're seeing cases where people are denied treatment here but simply go overseas and have it."