Prisoners may be able to avail of publicly-funded fertility treatment

Prisoners may be able to avail of publicly-funded fertility treatment

Prisoners may be able to avail of the publicly-funded fertility treatment services set to be rolled out later this year, the Irish Prison Service (IPS) has indicated.

Ministers recently announced the first publicly-funded assisted human reproduction (AHR) programme in the State, which will begin in September and offer eligible patients one full cycle of IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) or ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection) treatment.

The treatments will initially be provided in HSE-approved private clinics of the patients’ choice ahead of the opening next year of the first public National Advanced AHR Centre.

Prisoners are generally entitled to access the same medical treatment as is available in the community to medical card holders.

Access to fertility treatment would ostensibly allow prisoners to begin families. There is no right to conjugal visits in Ireland and the Supreme Court previously held in Murray v Ireland [1991] ILRM 465 that there was no constitutional right to start a family infringed by this.

In response to questions from the Irish Examiner, the Irish Prison Service said: “The Irish Prison Service acknowledges the recent announcement from the HSE to introduce publicly funded fertility treatment services for people in the community from September 2023.

“The Irish Prison Service works to ensure that those in custody are provided with the equivalent access to healthcare services as that available under the medical card scheme in the community.”

Caron McCaffrey, director-general of the prison service, previously told an Oireachtas committee that it would “provide equivalence of care to that which you can get in a community”.

“We need to be very clear that just because you are in custody, the only right you’ve lost is your right to liberty, you haven’t lost your other rights, including your right to family life and we do a lot, and as much as we can, to support the links with your family,” she added.

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