Legislation changes concerning Fertility Treatments in Greece
Legislation concerning reproductive medicine varies considerably from country to country. In addition, these are constantly being reviewed and improved. This process is positive for couples who need a specific fertility treatment and are often forced to travel thousands of kilometres for it.
In some cases, thanks to these legal changes, it is possible to receive the necessary treatment in their home country or close by. Depending on the type of treatment and the situation of the patient. In most countries, IVF treatments with sperm donation are now possible, but only a few countries allow treatments such as egg donation.
Therefore, major legal changes mostly concern more complicated treatments such as egg donation, IVF for singles or surrogacy, which in many countries are either not offered at all or are offered under very strict conditions.
One of the last major changes, in terms of reproductive medicine legislation, occurred in Greece. One of the most popular fertility treatment destinations for patients who have limited availability of fertility treatments or very high prices in their home country.
The fertility clinics in Greece are therefore considered a preferred destination for patients from countries not far away, such as Germany, Switzerland and especially the UK.
This summer, on the 19th of July to be precise, there has been a debate in the Greek parliament to create a new draft law of the Ministry of Health on the “Reform of Medically Assisted Reproduction”. In Greece, there has been a law on reproductive medicine since 2002, which was revised in 2005 and updated since then.
However, this year’s change is crucial for many patients, as treatment options and the age limit for patients have significantly changed.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated in his official statement that “assisted reproduction is worth an open discussion with the entire society”. Even more so, this challenge is linked to other important national goals, such as the protection of individual rights, the modernisation of daily life and, of course, the management of the demographic problem”.
Greece has always been one of the countries with one of the most progressive legislations when it comes to fertility treatments, but with this significant change, not only anonymous but also open egg donations are now allowed. Another very important point for many patients.
Now Greece has one of the most open legislations in Europe when it comes to fertility treatments. It now allows many couples who previously had to travel very far to have fertility treatment that suits them with fewer travel costs.
But what are the biggest differences to other fertility destinations?
Open and anonymous egg donation
In most countries where egg donation is allowed, it is limited to anonymous egg donations. Anonymous usually means that the patient and her partner can find out about their egg donor only her age and blood group, but never anything personal that could reveal her identity. The anonymity also applies to the donor, so she will never know whether a pregnancy has resulted from her donated eggs nor which patient has received her donated eggs.
In Greece, on the other hand, since the new legislation, it is possible to choose open egg donation and learn more about the donor. Whether the donation is open or not is decided by both parties, the egg donor and the patient or couple receiving the eggs.
If the donor and the couple choose an open egg donation, the child can receive personal information about the egg donor after the age of 18.
In the case of anonymous egg donation in Greece, as in other countries, the identity of the donor and the patient is not revealed, and the child cannot receive any information about the donor even after the age of 18.
Egg donations for female couples and singles
Often, singles and female couples have few treatment options. For example, in most countries, a patient who is single can only opt for IVF with sperm donation. In the case of a female couple, they can choose either that same option or the ROPA method, which allows shared motherhood. But for single women and couples suffering from infertility, there are very few fertility treatments available. In Greece, however, they can choose alternative treatments, such as egg donation.
Surrogacy is allowed
When it comes to surrogacy, most people think of destinations like Russia, Ukraine, India or South Africa. But it is not necessary to go to countries where it is often more complicated and expensive to travel to. Surrogacy is also possible in Greece, and due to lower travel costs, it is already much more affordable than in countries like India.
According to Greek law, a relative, friend or even a stranger can voluntarily opt for the transfer of an embryo previously created in vitro with the couple’s gametes.
An important point in any treatment with partners:
Greek law provides that persons undergoing artificial insemination decide to do so together, declare their intentions on a written document and present it before the start of the corresponding treatment. At this stage, it will also be decided what will happen to the remaining embryos after transfer.
Couples do not have to be married
As mentioned above, Greece is one of the few countries that do not differentiate between married couples, unmarried couples and singles when it comes to fertility treatments.
Treatments for patients over 50
Another important change that sets Greece apart from other fertility countries is the increase in the age limit for women who want to undergo these treatments from 50 to 54. This change in the age limit will help female patients who until now had to travel far because of their age and were rejected by many fertility clinics abroad. As for the age of the male partner, there is no age limit.
You may be interested in reading: IVF Age Limit: How Old Is Too Old?
Why have the laws in Greece been changed?
While this change in legislation benefits many international patients, there are of course other reasons.
It is a serious measure of the Greek government to respond to the decreasing population. Already in 2020, many studies have been published proving that the Greek population is decreasing year by year. For example, in 2020 the Guardian wrote that in 2050 36% of the Greek population will be over 65 years old. Shocking data that is getting worse and worse and is currently making politicians ponder more than ever.
The Ekatherimi.com newspaper writes in the same year, “The population of Greece on the 1st of January of 2021 is estimated at 10,678,632 people, composed of 5,196,048 men (48.7%) and 5,482,584 women (51.3%), a decrease of 0.37% compared to the population on 1 January 2020, which was 10,718,565 people. According to ELSTAT, this results from the “natural population decline”, which amounts to 45,902 persons (84,767 births compared to 130,669 deaths of residents of the Greek territory) and net migration, which is estimated at 6,384 persons.”
These highly worrying data are due to a changing society and the difficult economic situation of recent years.
The government is now hoping to address this problem one step at a time with more open legislation regarding reproductive treatments.
Could such a change in the law happen in other countries as well?
The average age of mothers is increasing every year and is already well over 30 in most countries, but the problem is not age per se, but the increasing fertility problems that occur as a result.
According to the WHO, an estimated 8-10% of all couples worldwide currently suffer from infertility. All cases are different and therefore not every couple can be treated in the same way. Sometimes IVF is enough, but often precise genetic tests and sperm or egg donations are necessary.
Therefore, it is important to be able to find the most suitable treatments as close as possible. Since the total cost of fertility treatments that require travel is often crucial but difficult to estimate, we have a helpful cost calculator here to provide a global overview.
There is already financial help from health insurance companies that are supposed to simplify conventional fertility treatments such as IVF.
Unfortunately, for many couples, this is not enough and sooner or later they have to undergo treatment abroad. But since these are very expensive and the global economic situation is getting worse, not every patient can afford such treatment.
Another big change that will happen soon and will affect many countries is that egg donation could become legal in Switzerland.
This change would be of great importance, as it could be an example for other countries with similar legislation.
The Swiss National Council passed a motion to this effect in March 2022, and then the Council of States approved it in September.
At the moment, the Swiss Federal Council has to create a legal basis and define the framework conditions so that couples for whom the cause of infertility is of female origin can receive egg donations.
So sooner or later, every country will have to seek solutions to the problem of rising infertility and falling population numbers so that general society and the economy do not suffer. This also means a long-term adjustment of reproductive laws, such as those recently introduced in Greece.
Reproductive medicine and its advances are therefore more important than ever, and we advise all patients to keep themselves constantly informed about what the legal situation will be in the countries near them. A thorough comparison of clinics is therefore always the best option, here we explain how.
- Kathimerini (2022) “Greek population estimated to have shrunk by 39,933 in 2020” https://www.ekathimerini.com/news/1174956/greek-population-estimated-to-have-shrunk-by-39-933-in-2020/
- WHO (2022) “Infertility” https://www.who.int/health-topics/infertility#tab=tab_1
- The Guardian (2020) “It’s national preservation: Greece offers a baby bonus to birth rate” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/04/its-national-preservation-greece-offers-baby-bonus-to-boost-birthrate