New Zealand Fertility Clinic Denies Services to Gay Cancer Patient

A New Zealand fertility clinic has informed a gay man with leukemia that he cannot freeze his sperm, a right that is routinely offered to heterosexual couples.

Logan Morton, 22, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in April of 2017. Morton’s cancer diagnosis means that a rapid growth of abnormal cells will interfere with his normal blood cell function. Chemotherapy is the primary treatment to reduce the cell count to a normal range and, hopefully, lead to remission. Bone marrow transplants and other treatments may also be used if necessary.

Chemotherapy has a number of side effects, however, including infertility. As a matter of course, the New Zealand health system allows patients who plan to undergo this treatment the chance to freeze their sperm for future use. Or, in the sad eventuality of the patient’s death, their partner can have children. At least, that would be the case if Morton was in a heterosexual relationship.

Instead, Morton was told that, due to policies that haven’t been amended since the early 2000s, the fertility clinic he contacted couldn’t cater to same-gender couples. And if he didn’t plan to preserve his sperm for a female partner, it would be destroyed.

Fertility Associates chair Dr. Mary Birdsall has now said that the policy will be change following Morton’s experiences:

We really feel terrible that Logan was offended because we see ourselves as being an organisation that works really hard to meet all of our clients’ needs, it’s just that society is becoming more complicated in terms of reproductive options that are available and we just need to move with the times.

The problem can be traced back to New Zealand’s Human Assisted Reproductive Technology (HART) Act, which lays out the practices and tight controls surrounding assisted reproduction. The Act establishes strict rules about what can be done with genetic material — generally a sensible strategy to ensure public health reproductive rights.

However, the Act does not specifically address the fertility rights of LGBT people. Specifically, the clause appears somewhat neutral, stating that the material should be “available for use only by a specified person within a specified timeframe,” but, given the  legal context when it was written, the policy has been interpreted to only provide for heterosexual couples.

In a moving op-ed piece, Morton details his experience with cancer and fertility treatment:

My experience of fertility treatment was hardly positive. Weak and distracted, I barely glanced at the form that spells out what happens to my sperm if I didn’t survive. Only later I realised only “female partners” are eligible to inherit, meaning my sperm would be destroyed despite having a loving and supportive partner.

Maybe it’s an oversight or a hospital bureaucracy struggling to keep up with social change and technological advances, but I believe it’s a grotesque and inexcusable relic of institutionalised homophobia.

Fertility Associates is taking steps to provide its patients with appropriate options, but the incident speaks to the need for every country — not just New Zealand — to convene legislative committees and explore how to best uphold LGBT and reproductive rights.

Morton has reportedly echoed this sentiment, telling the press:

Obviously I’m thrilled that it’s been brought to their attention and they are willing to update the form and adapt their policy and definitely recognize they are working within legislation like they have to so I guess it boils down to an issue of the legislation needing updating, doesn’t it.

When people are at their most vulnerable, they shouldn’t have to fight the relics of discrimination.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

49 comments

Marie W
Marie W4 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Ellie M
Ellie M8 months ago

Noted

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Elaine W
Elaine W9 months ago

Lizzard brain thinking.

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DAVID fleming
Past Member 9 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Lesa D
Lesa D9 months ago

shame on them...

thank you Steve...

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Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole Heindryckx9 months ago

Continue : Mr Morton was simply not granted the possibility of freezing his sperm because he is GAY ! Totally outrageous...
I wonder whether these clinics also should refuse donated egg cells, which are so difficult to obtain, if the woman was a lesbian ?? Or if he had taken the difficult decision not to disclose being gay. Then it was just a matter between himself and his partner.

Hopefully, this stupid regulation will be amended the soonest possible, because it is unfair !!

To Mr. Morton : I wish you all the best with your treatment/s and hope you can recover completely or sufficiently to continue your life with your partner. And that you both find another solution when you really want to have a child to love and cherish. I fear however that foster care or adoption will not be possible either. We are too hypocrite for that and prefer children to stay in homes, with insufficient attention, lack of love, etc...

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Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole Heindryckx9 months ago

@ RK R : what has your comment to do with the issue of this article ??????? Or did you not read it in full ???

@ Mike A : did you get stuck in the 19th century or so ? I sincerely hope you have no children or grandchildren who are "not normal". Because that's what you think. I really pity you and all those who have to live with you !!

@ Christina S. : the same applies to you. And what should happen when the mother dies at a very young age. Should the father have to remarry very urgently because his kids can't live without a female parent ??? And mind you I know a woman who married under the pressure of her family. A few years later, with a child of 1,5 years old, she informed us being sure now that she was lesbian as she had found he love of her life, viz. a woman of about 5 years older than she was. We all were happy that finally she was for a 100 % happy as well with her new partner. Her child is now a teen, and very well educated and without any "wrong" ideas or complexes about his 2 mothers. We live in the 21st century, and not in the Middle Ages.

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Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole Heindryckx9 months ago

I fully understand that the sperm should not be used if this particular cancer is an heredity type. And until now, to my knowledge, they still can not figure it out. HOWEVER, many couples have their children at a young age. Mr. Morton is just 22, so it is indeed rather young, but not abnormal. I wonder what would happen if his sperm had been used already, and the cancer was detected at a later stage. May be this couple could already have a baby. Each and everyone of us can have a gen, causing genetical transmitted diseases, such as diabetes, breast cancer, other types of cancers and some types of mental illness etc.. There are millions of people in this situation who have one or more children, without knowing what diseases they could eventually pass on to their children. My husband got leukemia when he was not yet 50 years. It is difficult to determine the exact date / year, as generally it starts very slowly and only after a couple of years, I effectively was sure that there was something wrong. And then, doctors did not believe us. He was too young. It was stress, burn out, depression, etc... Finally after 3 years of difficulties and character changes, I went to a specialized clinic, and got the "verdict". It was Alzheimer's disease. He has 3 daughters with his first wife. Will they also get this type of leukemia ?? or Alzheimer ?? I don't know, and at that time, the doctors did neither. Therefore, Mr

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DAVID fleming
Past Member 9 months ago

Thanks for posting

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Alanna R
Alanna R9 months ago

I hope this doesn't continue to happen in the future, but I know my hopes are futile.

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