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Lesbian couple denied NHS treatment ‘because of their sexuality’

Josh Jackman March 2, 2017

A lesbian couple has accused the NHS of refusing them fertility treatment because of their sexuality.

Lynsey Kirkwood, who lives in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, with her fiancée Lisa Berry, said a consultant explicitly told them he would not provide IVF on the NHS because of their lesbian relationship.

Writing on the pair’s JustGiving page, Ms Kirkwood said: “I asked the consultant to clarify twice – if Lisa walked in with a man, would she receive NHS help? ‘Yes.’ If she walked in single, would she receive NHS help? Yes.’

“So because we are both women, Lisa and I have been denied NHS funding.”

Ms Kirkwood said she was “beyond devastated” by last week’s development, which led the engaged couple to start their fundraising drive to get the £6,000 necessary for one round of private IVF.

The two women, who have been together for three years but cannot get married in Northern Ireland, decided to start a family in 2015, before discovering they both had fertility issues.

“Lisa’s health means we have an 18-month window in which to start treatment. Having already spent £900 to date and saving every penny we have, we simply don’t have the thousands required,” Ms Kirkwood said.

“As time is biologically against us we were really hoping for at least one round with the NHS, as our GP thought we would get.”

Ms Kirkwood said they now “feel totally betrayed by our so-called government.

“We now realise that the government is against our relationship and therefore our family, and (that we) now need to rely on the generosity of friends and communities to help our family become complete,” Ms Kirkwood continued.

Speaking to the Ulster Star, she said she felt responsible for the couple’s situation.

“I blamed myself, I feel guilty, I feel that I am the reason that she couldn’t have children. Had Lisa walked in with a man, she would have been starting treatment now, and that hurts us both,” she said.

A Belfast Health and Social Care Trust spokesperson told the Star: “We are unable to comment on individual cases, however all patients attending the Regional Fertility Centre requesting NHS treatment are assessed and managed in accordance with Department of Health commissioning criteria.

“Factors include the patient’s age and weight and that there must be a medical cause for infertility.”

However, Tracey McDowell, the development officer at Here NI – a charity which supports gay and bisexual women – said this was not an isolated case.

“As a direct result of our Same Sex Families project we have noticed a marked increase in the number of calls we are getting from distressed couples that have been refused NHS-funded fertility treatment by the Regional Fertility Centre,” she told the Star.

“The stories we hear all follow the same narrative – after approaching their GP, couples are referred to the Regional Fertility Centre hopeful that they will receive treatment only to be left devastated when this is not the case.

“We are happy to provide support and guidance where possible and we would welcome a review of the current Department of Health guidelines.”

More: Homophobia, IVF, lesbians, NHS, Northern Ireland

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