BACKGROUND: During the last decade, the possibility for women to cryopreserve oocytes in anticipation of age-related fertility loss, also referred to as social egg freezing, has become an established practice at fertility clinics around the globe. In Europe, there is extensive variation in the costs for this procedure, with the common denominator that there are almost no funding arrangements or reimbursement policies. This is the first qualitative study that specifically explores viewpoints on the (lack of) reimbursement for women who had considered to uptake at least one social egg freezing cycle in Belgium.
METHODS: To understand the moral considerations of these women, drawing from twenty-one interviews, this paper integrates elements of a symbiotic empirical ethics approach and thematic analysis.
RESULTS: We identify four themes: (1) being confronted with unclear information; (2) financial costs as ongoing concern; (3) necessity of coverage; (4) extent of reimbursement. In the first theme, we found that some women were concerned about the lack of clear information about the cost of social egg freezing. In the second theme, we report moral sentiments of injustice and discrimination which some women attributed to their struggles and needs not being recognised. The third theme illustrates diverse views on reimbursement, ranging from viewing social egg freezing as an elective treatment not appropriate for reimbursement to preferences for greater public responsibility and wider access. Finally, we describe the participants' varying proposals for partial reimbursement and the idea that it should not be made available for free.
CONCLUSIONS: This research adds important empirical insights to the bioethics debate on social egg freezing, in particular by presenting (potential) users' views on the lack of reimbursement. While there is much more to say about the ethical and political complexities of the reimbursement of this procedure, our study highlighted the voices of (potential) users and showed that at least some of them would welcome the coverage of SEF through the public healthcare insurance.