Oocyte freezing. The legal framework in Greece.

Did you get married in Greece? You have less rights to your frozen Oocyte . The Lt. Health wants to cancel the barriers, but so far married women simply have fewer rights than single women.

Anachronistic provisions that essentially restrict women’s rights, govern the legislation on IVF and egg cryopreservation in Greece.

On the occasion of the government’s announcement to abolish the controversial restrictions that “unbearably” plague women, as the Prime Minister commented today, LiFO.gr contacted a gynecologist and a lawyer in an attempt to outline the paradoxical obstacles of the law.

“Over the years there have been some articles that have become anachronistic,” comments Dr. Konstantinos Pantos, secretary general of the Greek Society of Reproductive Medicine, a gynecologist and scientific director of the Genesis Athens clinic.
“One article is the one on the age limit, since it has now been scientifically proven that a woman over the age of 50 is not at increased risk, as long as she is screened for underlying diseases.”

“And of course following the trend of modern society, women are leaving childbearing for later in life.

The increased age limit is something modern and pleasant. But egg freezing, about which there has been so much discussion,” is typically banned for social reasons and the 2005 law allows a woman to freeze eggs only for medical reasons. Commonly it was not enough for the law, “to freeze her eggs to deal with her career for example, she just couldn’t.”

“Another injustice for women who wanted to freeze their eggs was that if a woman was separated from her husband, she could not freeze eggs without his consent, nor could she use her eggs that she may have previously frozen within marriage.”

In fact, the most paradoxical of all, was that even if a divorce had been granted, if the Oocyte had been frozen within the marriage, the woman could not use the frozen eggs from the marital period, even after the marriage ended, unless she got the “okay” from her ex-husband.

“The question arises as to whether the consent of the spouse/partner is required for the disposal of a single (i.e. unfertilized oocyte)”, notes civil lawyer Anna Deuteraiou. “Cryopreservation does require the consent of both partners according to article 7 of the law. 3305/2005.”

Oocyte freezing. The legal framework in Greece.

Oocyte freezing

“According to article 15 of Law 4272/2014, which amended the previous article 8 of Law 3305/2005, it is stipulated that “in case of fertilized oocyte donation, when the donors are married or living in a free union, the written consent of the spouse or partner is required”. It therefore follows – “by contrast” – that the disposal of the (unfertilised) oocyte no longer requires the consent of the spouse/partner,” he adds.

“In other words, the consent of the spouse/partner is no longer required for the donation of a single egg and this issue is now essentially characterised as a matter of the donor’s individual life”, concludes Ms Deuteraiou.

All too often, however, along with the lost eggs due to non-consensual oocytes, time is lost and, with it, chances of success for women who wish to have children: “There is a hormone, AMH, that indicates the ovarian reserve of eggs. The reserve drops sharply at age 30 to 35, to only 5% of what it was at a younger age. Because divorces often occur at older ages – any delay reduces the “chance” of success, explains Dr. Pantos. And in addition to the quantity, the quality of the eggs decreases after 40 “and this of course can have consequences for the infant for genetic damage,” Dr. Pantos explains, noting that with the new law launched by the Ministry of Health, this right is being restored.

“Several women suffer because they froze their Oocyte during marriage, wanted to have a child, but because they were separated and the husband did not agree, in the intervening years they lost the possibility of having a child.

Until recently, eggs could be legally preserved for 10 years, but last year the law changed and now in Greece women can freeze their eggs for up to 25 years. In Britain, they can store genetic material for up to fifty years.

With the changes being promoted, existing restrictions are now being unlocked. “A couple with a 51-year-old woman, who literally managed to get pregnant for one day before the legal limit, will now be able to have a second child (she is in the eighth month of pregnancy of the first),” Dr. Pantos says of a case he knows, while not failing to comment on the issue of travel to the more legally friendly foreign country.

“Women will not run to Albania and other countries where the procedure was allowed even after 52 years. Hundreds of women were going to the neighbouring country every year. It is a positive development on the part of the ministry – it is indeed a step of modernization that will also stimulate medical tourism.”

Oocyte freezing. The legal framework in Greece.