Social egg freezing

Allowing procedure may have inadvertent consequences

There may be some unforeseen and inadvertent consequences of permitting social egg freezing in Singapore (Time to relook policy on social egg freezing, says MP, Feb 26).

First, single women who undergo elective egg freezing might later expect to undertake in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment with their frozen eggs. Is it fair to allow them to receive government subsidies for IVF treatment at public hospitals?

This would obviously lengthen waiting lists for subsidised IVF treatment and take resources away from couples with genuine fertility problems, thereby placing unnecessary burden on the already crowded public healthcare system.

It may not be unreasonable to place such patients with frozen eggs at the bottom of waiting lists for subsidised IVF treatment, or completely exclude them from subsidies altogether.

Second, permitting elective egg freezing will inevitably lead to late parenthood. This may not be in the child's best interest. For example, some older middle-aged parents may not be able to cope with the physical rigours of parenthood.

Moreover, there is the unhappy prospect of the children being saddled with the financial, emotional and physical burden of looking after elderly parents during their late teens or young adulthood, when they are just finishing their studies and starting on their careers.

Third, social egg freezing may inadvertently encourage single motherhood and overseas surrogacy.

Unmarried women who choose to freeze their eggs do so with the strong expectation that they will use them one day, regardless of their future marital status.

If they remain single, it is likely that some of them may consider single motherhood with their frozen eggs.

Although current health regulations in Singapore ban unmarried women from undergoing fertility treatment with donated sperm, there are currently no laws that stop single women from exporting their frozen eggs for IVF abroad.

Similarly, some patients who develop health problems later in life may export their frozen eggs for overseas surrogacy to circumvent the increased medical risks of pregnancy in older women.

It would be morally and ethically problematic for the Government to ban the export of frozen eggs by either single women or married couples, as they have an inherent legal right over what they consider as their own bodily material and personal property.

Alexis Heng Boon Chin (Dr)

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2021, with the headline Allowing procedure may have inadvertent consequences. Subscribe