AMANDA PLATELL: I endured the trauma of IVF. Giving it to the over-40s on the NHS isn"t just wasteful… it"s cruel

I endured the trauma of IVF. Giving it to the over-40s on the NHS isn't just wasteful… it's cruel

Amanda Platell


23:29 GMT, 23 May 2012



23:29 GMT, 23 May 2012

, would they
Baby blues: Amanda tried in vain for a child

Baby blues: Amanda tried in vain for a child

News that the cash-strapped NHS is being advised to spend its precious resources giving IVF to women in their 40s left me speechless.

How in a civilised society can we put the demands of women who choose to have late babies to fit into their busy schedules on a par with saving the lives of women and men with life-threatening cancer, or the elderly who languish neglected in our wards

Why should taxpayers fork out millions of pounds for the lifestyle choices of women who for decades put themselves and their careers first, then wake up at 40 and say: ‘I’ve got the husband, I’ve got the job, the Botox, the designer handbags, the house — heck, I forgot to have the baby’

I feel passionately about this for two reasons, both close to my heart.

First, I have a girlfriend with cancer who has been treated by the NHS for more than a year now. Last Friday, she came over to my house on her way to her weekly check-up at one of London’s finest hospitals. This normally vibrant woman was gaunt, pale and as weak as a kitten. A blind man could see she was seriously ill.

So she went off to hospital, had her consultation and was told: yes, something was clearly wrong. But as they had no specialists available at the weekend due to cutbacks, she’d have to come back on Sunday and wait in A&E to be re-admitted.

She couldn’t be allocated a bed for Sunday night and simply admitted, despite the five operations she’d had there in the past year and the fact she was now well known to the hospital.

It’s the system, they explained, something to do with getting their A&E admissions up to the required quota.

My frail friend waited for four hours with drug addicts and drunks before finally being admitted to hospital, even though they knew she had cancer.

That’s the way it works now. No money, not enough doctors and nurses, especially at the weekend. Queue up for what Labour’s Nye Bevan said would be a health service free for all at the point of delivery.
It’s become a free-for-all, all right — a free-for-all for anyone unhappy about the state of their lives.

I’ve seen our beloved NHS up close and personal and it is appalling the way it treats people who are seriously ill, with life-threatening diseases like cancer.

'When you're an older woman having IVF, there's a terrible cycle of hope and despair'

And yet we are told we need to spend more money on people who claim their right to have a baby whenever it fits into their busy schedule should sap money from people like my friend.

The second reason for my anger It’s more personal still. I have every sympathy for a woman with her biological clock ticking. Because I know what it’s like to be desperate for a child. I know the envy of seeing friends deliver another child effortlessly, the sadness of wandering through Baby Gap wishing I was buying those adorable candy-striped dungarees for my own baby, not someone else’s.

In my late 30s, after a series of operations to try to rectify what doctors thought might be the reason I hadn’t got pregnant after a decade of trying, I had to face the harsh reality that being a mother was not a God-given right. It is not an entitlement, as I’ve heard women and men wanting a late baby claim on radio shows this week, demanding their right to costly IVF on the NHS.

I spent my own hard-earned cash paying for my treatment as I considered it morally reprehensible for the state to pay for my desire to have a baby. It was anathema to me that hard-working families should subsidise something that wasn’t an illness.

What right did I have to bump an elderly lady with dementia off the waiting list for drugs to ease her suffering because of my maternal longings Why is a woman’s right to motherhood more worthy than a man with prostate cancer

Maternal wishes: Amanda thinks if women want a baby, they should not put it off to further their careers (posed by model)

Maternal wishes: Amanda thinks if women want a baby, they should not put it off to further their careers (posed by model)

Because that’s the reality of the NHS today. It doesn’t have enough money to treat the ill or the elderly properly, so why should it be treating women who put off motherhood by their own choice until it was too late to conceive naturally

Since when did we put artificially creating lives before saving them

And what they don’t tell you about when you’re an older woman having IVF is the terrible cycle of hope and despair. If they’d only told me at the beginning that I’d have more chance of winning the Lottery, instead of allowing me to fill my mind and heart with dreams of a child of my own — dreams that were dashed by the ghastly reality that hardly any older women get pregnant using fertility treatment.

IVF has a terrible success rate for women over 40. About 17 per cent of women aged 40 to 42 who use it get pregnant and about half of these miscarry. At 3,000 a cycle, it’s hardly money well spent, especially at a time of postcode lotteries for life-saving treatment and drugs. Only yesterday, we learnt that half of diabetes patients are not getting the treatment they need to prevent the disease becoming deadly.

'Why should we all be footing the bill for those who for purely social reasons decide to have babies late'

How did we ever get into a situation where gastric bands, prescriptions for Viagra and designer babies were fighting for the precious resources of a health system that was created to help the sick, not the self-indulgent

Of course, the baby-at-any-age campaigners behind the extension for IVF to over-40s reject the claim that infertility is not a life-threatening condition.
Infertility causes psychological harm, they say. Indeed, but many of these women brought this upon themselves.

Yes, the elephant in the room is that many of these forty-something women have made this choice for themselves, deciding to leave motherhood to when it fitted in with their busy schedules.

It pains me to say it, but some women in the post feminist generation, my generation, believe they are mistresses of the universe. They can have whatever they want, whenever they want it. Career, home, husband, babies, it is their right.

It is an appalling indictment of our generation that women claim they are fighting for equal rights, yet when it comes down to it they defy all the laws of nature, want to have children way past a time when a woman can naturally do so, and then expect the state to pick up the tab.

The facts of life are that a woman is at her most fertile in her 20s. That’s when we’re supposed to start our families. By 30 our fertility is already waning. By 40 it’s almost dead.

Women know this, so why should we all be footing the bill for those who for purely social reasons decide to have babies late

I know many successful career women who have combined early motherhood with their jobs, who are now in their 40s and 50s and thriving. It’s not a case any more of choosing career or children.

And why are so many women putting off motherhood until their 40s, with one in four women at 40 now childless It’s not due to illness, but a decision to pursue their own lives and happiness and let motherhood wait until they’re ready.

Too often by then it is too late, which is terribly sad. But if these women really were so driven by their maternal instincts, they wouldn’t have left it two decades, would they