Collaboration with International Fertility Center
- Dr. Carl Herbert and Kari Kawada of IFC
Living in California, with its open attitude, makes it difficult to imagine that some of the treatment choices we take for granted may not be available in other parts of the world. In Japan, IVF is available, and it is now accepted as one of the normal infertility treatments. Unfortunately, there are many restrictions. IVF is allowed only if the couple is legally married. Permission for PGD is determined on a case-by-case basis by the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology committee. So far, only one case has been approved. Egg donation programs are being considered, but the government and the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology's unrealistic proposed guidelines would make it virtually impossible to establish a program. This same governing body has decided surrogacy is illegal in Japan. Through the world wide web, TV and other media, frustrated Japanese infertility patients have been learning of the more extensive services offered by IVF programs outside of Japan. Some fly over 9 hours from Tokyo to California, with hopes that their dreams of parenthood will come true. This is where IFC, International Fertility Center, comes into the picture. IFC has been working with PFC, Pacific Fertility Center, exclusively since 1997 to help Japanese couples become parents. IFC informs their clients about the services at PFC, prepares their medical history in English and provides transportation. IFC attends all patient appointments and provides translation and support throughout their entire IVF cycle with the ever-patient and efficient help of PFC's Janet Debow, RN, IVF coordinator. IFC also works with donor/surrogate agencies, attorneys and Japanese-speaking infertility counselors to make the program happen even while the patients wait in Japan. Ever since we brought patients to Dr. Carl Herbert and his partner physicians, we have been impressed with their thoroughness of care, their generosity of time and understanding and their ability to deliver sometimes painful, but much needed, straightforward diagnoses. Unfortunately, we have discovered that many of our clients, prior to coming to IFC and Pacific Fertility Center, have undergone numerous IVF cycles- as many as 20 or more. Many of these patients would have benefited from egg donation, however egg donation does not exist in Japan. Using the only treatments available to them, these patients continue to hope that their next IVF cycle will be successful and do not have the heart to put an end to their infertility treatment. They stop only when their doctor tells them they are too old. The most wonderful thing about working with PFC is that the physicians, nurses, embryologists, and the rest of the support staff, are so understanding and hard-working. They bend over backwards to make the patients feel welcomed and relaxed, while providing the world's top-level medical care. IFC had the option to select any infertility specialist's practice in the Bay Area, and we have never regretted our choice to work with Pacific Fertility Center. The practice is state-of-the-art, ethical, honest, and warm. The PFC-IFC collaboration has been successful and is considered to be a good example when considering the future of reproductive medicine in Japan. !(http://www.pacificfertilitycenter.com/fertilityflash/vol3-7/Kawada-Japan-IVF.jpg) Kari Kawada speaking at the 6th Annual Japanese IVF Conference As director of IFC, I have been invited to speak about our collaboration at various medical conferences in Japan, including the IVF Conference, Ethics Committee of Japan Fertilization and Implantation Society, Jichi-Medical School, and Tokyo Medical and Dental School. My work has been published in the Japanese OB/GYN periodicals and I have been interviewed for a variety of Japanese media. Our work with Pacific Fertility Center has resulted in many happy Japanese families that remember San Francisco as the place where they truly left their hearts. They all promise to come back with their children one day - to the place where their dreams came true and new life began. **-- Kari Kawada, Director, International Fertility Center****Infertility Care Outside the USA** Even though the United States continues to battle out issues related to abortion and stem cells, it would appear that advanced reproductive technologies are here to stay. Few other nations match the quality, number of clinics and the choice of treatment options that couples enjoy in the U.S. even with recent tightening of FDA regulations regarding donors and donated embryos. Without summarizing every nation's policy, it is worth describing at least a handful to help put into perspective what American infertile couples may take for granted. Besides the Japanese regulations described in the article; New laws just passed by the government in Scotland have removed all donor anonymity. As a result, childless couples in Scotland needing either sperm or egg donation face a wait of up to five years because of a chronic shortage of both sperm and egg donors. In general, European Union countries with egg donation programs do not allow the egg donors to be compensated for their oocytes resulting in severe shortages of willing donors and delays in treatment of 2-5 years unless one has a friend/family willing to volunteer. In Victoria, Australia, non-married people and same-sex couples are fighting to legally receive infertility treatment. Currently they must travel elsewhere. This past June a voter referendum was unable to overturn one of the most prohibitive laws set in place by the Italian legislature in 2003. This law completely prohibits any donation of egg or sperm, as well as surrogacy arrangements. Only heterosexual couples that prove themselves to be in a stable relationship are eligible for infertility treatment. Also, only three embryos may be created at a time and all three must be implanted simultaneously. Freezing of embryos and sperm is prohibited and unused embryos must be kept until they perish. In South Africa an organ smuggling scandal caused the country's egg donor program to be shut down for 18 months even though the two were proven later to be unrelated.