A New Definition of Infertility Will Give Every Individual 'The Right to Reproduce'

Infertile
An embryologist fertilizes embryos in the fertility laboratory at Birmingham Women's Hospital fertility clinic, Birmingham, England, January 22, 2015. The WHO is advocating a change in the definition of infertility to include people who have failed to find a partner to have children with. Christopher Furlong/Getty

Single men and women who have not found a sexual partner to have children with will be classed as “infertile,” the World Health Organization is to announce.

In a move that dramatically changes the definition of infertility, the WHO will declare that it should no longer be regarded as simply a medical condition.

The authors of the new global standards said the revised definition gave every individual “the right to reproduce.”

Until now, the WHO’s definition of infertility—which it classed as a disability—has been the failure to achieve pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sex.

But the new standard suggests that the inability to find a suitable sexual partner could be considered an equal disability, The Daily Telegraph reports.

The WHO sets global health standards and its ruling is likely to place pressure on the NHS to change its policy on who can access IVF treatment.

Legal experts said the new definition, which will be sent out to every health minister next year, may force a law change, allowing the introduction of commercial surrogacy.

But the ruling is also likely to lead to accusations that that the body has overstepped its remit by moving from its remit of health into matters of social affairs.

Under current NHS policies, fertility treatment is only funded for those proven infertile, and those where fertility is unexplained but attempts at conception have failed.

Guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says women under the age of 42 should be offered three full cycles of IVF, with access for same-sex couples if surrogacy or privately funded fertility treatment fails.

But few areas achieve this, with rationing deepening across the NHS amid financial pressures.

The new definitions drawn up by WHO’s international committee monitoring assisted reproductive technology will be sent to every health minister for consideration next year.