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Mater Dei reviewing IVF incubation processes after technical fault

Hospital management met prospective parents last week

Mater Dei Hospital will be reviewing its IVF incubation processes now that an inquiry looking into damage to the hospital’s incubator last year has been concluded.

Health Minister Chris Fearne called the independent inquiry after a technical fault was reported at Mater Dei’s IVF incubator in January 2017. The incubator had been carrying embryos in the process of being implanted as part of the IVF process.

A Health Ministry spokeswoman told the Times of Malta that the findings of the inquiry, led by Judge Albert J. Magri, which was concluded and handed over to the minister this month, have been communicated to the affected people.

She insisted that it was only fair to discuss the matter with the involved parties before the information was made public. The meeting between the parents and hospital management took place on Saturday.

Sources told this newspaper yesterday that at the meeting, couples were offered reimbursement for their expenses, however no offers of compensation were put on the table.

The parents, the sources added, were unlikely to take further action on the matter.

The spokeswoman wouldn’t divulge any details of the findings, saying instead that the minister would be discussing them in Parliament this week.

However, when asked whether there would be any changes in light of the inquiry, she said that as with any such investigation, suggestions by those making the probe would be followed up and implemented accordingly.

The publication of the conclusions from the inquiry comes at the height of a national debate on the IVF law reform currently under way after Mr Fearne unveiled a new Bill with a number of amendments last week.

The reform would see the introduction of embryo freezing and adoption and also seeks to make the treatment more accessible to same-sex couples and persons who are single by choice. A public consultation on surrogacy would also be launched.

Since they were unveiled last week, various people – including former Labour minister George Vella and a medical professor who in 2012 was involved in the drafting of the law in place today – have publically spoken out against the proposals.

Opposition MP Edwin Vassallo has also come out against the amendments, insisting the Bill attempts to promote a “culture of death”.

Mr Vassallo has in the past voted against what he believed were contrary to his morals, including same-sex marriages last summer and in January against a domestic violence Bill.

Both bishops have also spoken out against the proposed amendments, saying they would serve to turn children into a commodity.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat yesterday dedicated most of his speech to the new Bill, insisting that the reform was about rights and equality and as far as he was concerned, the government was simply proposing to update a law that was flawed.

On his part, Opposition leader Adrian Delia said he would be allowing Nationalist MPs a free vote on the controversial Bill, insisting that he wanted to strike a balance between helping infertile couples and also protecting life from conception.

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