In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) has revolutionized the field of reproductive medicine, providing hope to couples facing infertility challenges. In Turkey, IVF is a well-regulated medical procedure that offers opportunities for couples to conceive and start a family. This article will explore the legal aspects, regulations, and requirements surrounding IVF practices in Turkey, as well as the responsibilities of doctors and treatment centers.
Understanding In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) in Turkey
What is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)?
In Vitro Fertilization, commonly known as IVF, refers to a series of procedures aimed at assisting couples with specific types of infertility. It involves the fertilization of an egg with sperm in a laboratory dish outside the human body. IVF is typically recommended for cases where the male sperm count is severely insufficient, there are issues with the female reproductive organs, or when other infertility causes remain unexplained.
Regulations on In Vitro Fertilization in Turkey
The Primary Legal Legislation:
In Turkey, the "Regulation on Assisted Reproductive Treatment Practices and Assisted Reproductive Treatment Centers," published in the Official Gazette on 30/09/2014, serves as the primary legal framework for IVF procedures. This regulation encompasses the transfer of gametes or embryos to the expectant mother's womb using various methods, facilitating fertilization outside the human body when necessary.
Relevant Laws and Conventions:
IVF practices in Turkey are governed by several other legal instruments, including the Turkish Civil Code No. 4721, Turkish Penal Code No. 5237, Law No. 2238 on the Removal, Storage, Vaccination, and Transplantation of Organs and Tissues, and the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity concerning the Application of Biology and Medicine (Human Rights Biomedicine Convention).
Establishment of In Vitro Fertilization Centers:
In Vitro Fertilization centers in Turkey can be established by public institutions and organizations, as well as legal persons and private entities. These centers can function as units within general and private hospitals or as separate entities dedicated to providing reproductive treatment.
Requirements for In Vitro Fertilization in Turkey
Marriage as a Legal Obligation:
IVF treatment in Turkey is restricted to married couples. Unmarried individuals are not eligible for IVF treatment within the country. However, there is no criminal liability for those who undergo IVF treatment abroad and subsequently give birth in Turkey.
Inability to Conceive by Natural Means:
IVF treatment is reserved for couples who are unable to conceive through natural means. The inability to have children should result from issues related to sexual intercourse. Medical professionals, particularly obstetricians, are responsible for documenting the couple's inability to conceive naturally.
Before undergoing IVF treatment, couples must receive comprehensive information about the procedure from relevant medical professionals. Furthermore, it is mandatory to obtain the spouses' informed consent before proceeding with IVF.
Use of Spouses' Genomes:
During IVF treatment, it is imperative to use the genetic material (genomes) of the spouses involved. The use of third-party genetic material as a donation is strictly prohibited in Turkey.
No Age Limit, but Limited Support from Social Security Insurance (SGK):
There is no upper age limit for IVF treatment in Turkey. However, support from Social Security Insurance (SGK) is available only until the age of 40.
Qualified Doctors for IVF Treatment in Turkey
IVF treatment can only be performed by qualified gynecologists in Turkey. These medical professionals must undergo six months of training approved by the Ministry of Health, and upon completion, they receive a certification that is valid for five years.
Legal Relationship Between Patients and Treatment Centers
Proxy Agreement in IVF Treatment:
The legal relationship between patients seeking IVF treatment and the treatment centers is based on a proxy agreement. This agreement requires treatment centers to act with loyalty and care during diagnosis and treatment, as outlined in Article 506 of the Turkish Code of Obligations.
Duty of Care:
In the context of the proxy agreement, the duty of care implies that the treatment centers must take necessary initiatives and actions in line with general life experiences and standard business practices to ensure successful results and avoid any actions that may hinder success.
Doctor's Responsibility in IVF Treatment
Proxy Contract Between Doctor and Patient:
The relationship between the patient and the doctor during IVF treatment is based on a proxy contract. According to Turkish Code of Obligations Articles 501/1 and 502/2, the regulations pertaining to proxy relationships apply to this context, as they align with employment contracts not explicitly regulated in the Code of Obligations.
Duty of Care and Responsibility:
The doctor has a duty of care towards the patient and is accountable for all efforts, actions, and procedures carried out during the treatment. Even the slightest negligence can be considered a breach of responsibility. The doctor is obliged to fulfill all professional requirements, promptly diagnose the patient's medical condition, take appropriate precautions, and administer suitable treatments.
Liability Relationship Between Doctor and IVF Center
In public hospitals, there is no contractual relationship between the hospital, the doctor, and the patient. Therefore, if the patient intends to pursue legal action, it must be directed towards the relevant public institution rather than the doctor or medical staff directly.
In cases where the patient seeks IVF treatment in a private hospital, a contractual relationship is established between the patient and the hospital. However, the doctor does not become a party to the contract. In situations requiring accountability, the physician can be held responsible based on tortious acts.
When the patient directly approaches a self-employed doctor for IVF treatment, the relationship is based on a proxy agreement. The doctor must act with utmost care and diligence, as expected in a professional setting, and is responsible for any negligence or shortcomings.
Responsibility for Accidental Fertilization of Another Patient's Genetic Material
Prohibition of Using Third-Party Genetic Material:
IVF treatment in Turkey strictly prohibits the use of eggs and sperm belonging to individuals outside the married couple seeking treatment. Any violation of this prohibition is considered a breach of contract.
Doctor's Responsibility in Case of Accidental Fertilization:
If accidental fertilization of another patient's genetic material occurs during IVF treatment due to a lack of due care, the doctor becomes responsible for any damages and potential repercussions. The court may evaluate the matter with the assistance of experts to determine the extent of the doctor's breach of duty.
Social Security Insurance (SGK) Support for IVF Treatment
Limited Support from SGK:
Social Security Insurance (SGK) in Turkey provides support for IVF treatment to married women with general health insurance who have not been able to conceive through natural means. The treatment is covered for up to three attempts, subject to certain conditions and age limitations.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) practices in Turkey are well-regulated, ensuring that couples facing infertility issues have access to reliable and ethical reproductive treatments. With clear legal legislation, qualified medical professionals, and transparent responsibilities, IVF has become a beacon of hope for those dreaming of starting a family. Understanding the regulations surrounding IVF is crucial for individuals considering this treatment option, as it provides the necessary assurance and guidance throughout their journey towards parenthood.