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Tuesday, 21 August 1984
Page: 79

(Question No. 909)


Senator Elstob asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 27 May 1984:

(1) What is the total cost of funding the in-vitro fertilisation program throughout Australia.

(2) What are the eligibility guidelines for couples who wish to participate in the program.

(3) What is the estimated cost to couples who undergo successful treatment.

(4) What benefits are available to these couples under Medicare.

(5) How many couples are presently awaiting treatment under the program.

(6) What is the estimated total cost of employing staff in the program.

(7) What States have in-vitro clinics operating and where are they located.

(8) Do all clinics funded by the Federal Government have distinct legal, ethical, medical and social guidelines from which to operate; if so, what are they.

(9) In cases where no guidelines have been finalised, when will they be introduced and how are these guidelines being developed.

(10) Are all clinics which receive funding accountable for all in-vitro research projects undertaken; if so, to whom are they accountable.

(11) What clinics allow frozen ova to be used for other than donor couples and for what purposes are they used.

(12) Is a register maintained containing information on the natural (donor) parents of each embryo stored or used in cases where frozen ova is used for other than the donor couple; if not, what provision is made for, (a) children born under the program who may wish to know of their natural parentage; (b) preventing the future risk of intermarriage of genetically related persons; and (c) the future possibility of children born under the program claiming personal compensation for medical and/or social negligence.

(13) Is the long term health of children born under the program monitored.

(14) Is genetic manipulation being practised on human embryos.

(15) What happens to frozen embryos which are not required by donor parents.

(16) Do the donor parents or the hospital/clinic have right of ownership of embryos.

(17) When was the first frozen embryo developed in Australia and by what clinic .

(18) How many frozen embryos are presently in storage.


Senator Grimes —The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

The Commonwealth Government does not provide any direct funding, nor funding through the National Health and Medical Research Council, for the various in- vitro fertilisation (IVF) programs which are operating around Australia.

The various State governments have full responsibility for determining the conditions and arrangements under which these programs operate, and I understand that these vary considerably between States and programs. Given the number of programs and the complexities involved, I am unable to answer many of the questions asked by the honourable senator, as the information is only held by the States or the program directors. However, in respect of parts (4), (7), (8) and (17) of the question, the answer is as follows:

(4) Medicare benefits are payable for medical services listed in the Medical Benefits Schedule and rendered in conjunction with the IVF program, provided the doctor itemises the particular medical services on the account. At present, approximately 50 per cent of the medical costs and up to 100 per cent of hospital charges are covered.

(7) All States have in-vitro fertilisation clinics; these are located thus:

New South Wales-The Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney

Victoria-Queen Victoria Medical Centre, Melbourne; Royal Women's Hospital, Melbourne

Queensland-The Wesley Hospital, Brisbane

Western Australia-The University of Western Australia, Perth

South Australia-Flinders Medical Centre, Adelaide; Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Adelaide

Tasmania-Queen Alexandra Hospital, Hobart

(8) The Federal Government does not fund any in-vitro fertilisation clinic. The National Health and Medical Research Council adopted guidelines on in-vitro fertilisation, prepared by its working party on ethics in medical research, in August 1982. These guidelines are simply advisory and may be adopted or rejected by the States. The guidelines can be enforced only in institutions and/or research funded by the Council.

(17) The process of freezing and thawing was developed in 1983, by Dr A. Trounson, Queen Victoria Medical Centre, Melbourne. The first pregnancy and birth resulting from this process was in 1984, at the Queen Victoria Medical Centre, Melbourne.