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

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Giulia Cavaliere, James Rupert Fletcher

Original languageEnglish
JournalScience Technology and Human Values
DOIs
Accepted/In press2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2021. Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors

Abstract

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.

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