'What are you going to do, confiscate their passports?' Professional perspectives on cross-border reproductive travel




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Taylor and Francis



Peer reviewed



Objective: This article reports findings from a UK-based study which explored the phenomenon of overseas travel for fertility treatment. The first phase of this project aimed to explore how infertility clinicians and others professionally involved in fertility treatment understand the nature and consequences of cross-border reproductive travel. Background: There are indications that, for a variety of reasons, people from the UK are increasingly travelling across national borders to access assisted reproductive technologies. While research with patients is growing, little is known about how ‘fertility tourism’ is perceived by health professionals and others with a close association with infertility patients. Methods: Using an interpretivist approach, this exploratory research included focussed discussions with 20 people professionally knowledgeable about patients who had either been abroad or were considering having treatment outside the UK. Semi-structured interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and subjected to a thematic analysis. Results: Three conceptual categories are developed from the data: ‘the autonomous patient’; ‘cross-border travel as risk’, and ‘professional responsibilities in harm minimisation’. Professionals construct nuanced, complex and sometimes contradictory narratives of the ‘fertility traveller’, as vulnerable and knowledgeable; as engaged in risky behaviour and in its active minimisation. Conclusions: There is little support for the suggestion that states should seek to prevent cross-border treatment. Rather, an argument is made for less direct strategies to safeguard patient interests. Further research is required to assess the impact of professional views and actions on patient choices and patient experiences of treatment, before, during and after travelling abroad.




Culley, L. et al. (2013) ‘What are you going to do, confiscate their passports?’ Professional perspectives on cross-border reproductive travel. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 31 (1), pp. 46-57


Research Institute

Centre for Reproduction Research (CRR)