Age-discriminated IVF Access and Evidence-based Ageism: Is There a Better Way?

Giulia Cavaliere, James Rupert Fletcher*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Access to state-funded fertility treatments is age-restricted in many countries based on epidemiological evidence showing age-associated fertility decline and aimed at administering scarce resources. In this article, we consider whether age-related restrictions can be considered ageist and what this entails for a normative appraisal of access criteria. We use the UK as a case study due to the state-funded and centrally regulated nature of in vitro fertilization (IVF) provision. We begin by reviewing concepts of ageism and age discrimination in gerontological scholarship and contend that it is analytically useful to differentiate between them when considering age-restricted health services. We then argue that criteria to access IVF could be considered indirectly ageist so far as they rely on an age-related evidence base that manifests ageist categorizations of persons. Lastly, we examine whether there could be more normatively desirable alternatives to devise criteria to access fertility treatment, considering “lifestyle” as a potential candidate. We conclude, however, that lifestyle-based discrimination is problematic because, unlike age-based discrimination, it risks exacerbating existing socioeconomic and ethnic inequalities.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScience Technology and Human Values
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • ageing
  • assisted conception
  • epidemiology
  • fertility
  • gerontology
  • reproduction


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