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Young artist challenging decision not to allow her eggs to be frozen

A young woman who suffers from Crohn's disease wants to freeze her eggs before undergoing chemotherapy

Elizabeth Rose

4 April 2014

A 25 year old artist from Kent who suffers from a debilitating disease has issued legal action after her local clinical commissioning group (CCG) refused to allow her funding for her eggs to be frozen before she undergoes a course of chemotherapy which is highly likely to render her infertile.

Elizabeth Rose from Margate in Kent was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at 14 years old. She has been advised she needs a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy to bring the disease into remission.

Clinicians at King’s Hospital applied on Ms Rose’s behalf to Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group for funding so that her eggs could be frozen prior to chemotherapy treatment. This was refused in 17 June 2013, again in July 2013 and most recently in March 2014. Ms Rose said:

“When my funding request was refused I felt incredibly low. Being told you cannot have your own children is one of the most upsetting things I have ever experienced.

“Although now I am determined that the rules should be changed as this treatment is becoming more commonplace for Crohn's disease sufferers and I would not want any other woman to have to go through this ordeal.

“I have incredibly supportive doctors who have helped me a great deal.

“I contacted my MP to ask for help. She wrote to Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group, she received a letter back from Jane Ellison MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health.

“This letter simply reiterated that funding had been refused and advised that: ‘there is no further recourse for Ms Rose to appeal against the decision.’

“Legal action is now my only option to preserve my fertility and maintain the possibility of having my own children one day.”

Despite extensive surgery, due to the progression of the disease, Ms Rose graduated from a BA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in 2010.

She worked at an art gallery in Margate as well as being an artist herself in film, video and photography. However, since December 2012, she has been too unwell, due to her illness, to work.

She was due to begin her treatment, which involves firstly harvesting her bone marrow before the chemotherapy begins, last week.

Her treating clinicians at King’s College Hospital are supportive of her attempt to secure funding for her eggs to be frozen and to a small delay for this treatment, but have stated her window of opportunity is very narrow.

The claim will be heard on 8 April 2014.

Merry Varney, from the human rights team at law firm Leigh Day, who represents Ms Rose said:

“Many other single women, in other parts of the country, are entitled to this treatment on the NHS. However, Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group have declined to fund this treatment under a policy which would provide it to her if she was in the same circumstances but male. This adds to the distress my client feels.

“Having reviewed clinical evidence and the need to reduce inequalities in healthcare, NICE published updated fertility guidance early last year stating that all those in our client’s position should receive fertility preservation treatment.

“The CCG has given no good reason for failing to implement this and we believe their continued refusal to provide our client with fertility preservation treatment based on an outdated and discriminatory policy is unlawful.”

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