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Spanish woman tipped as ‘world’s oldest person’ at 115

A Spanish great-grandmother who was born in the United States has likely become the world's oldest living person at 115, a Guinness World Records consultant said Wednesday.

Spanish woman tipped as 'world's oldest person' at 115
A picture taken on January 18, 2023 in Olot, near Barcelona, shows a the Residencia Sta. Maria del Tura, a nursing home where Maria Branyas Morera, 115-year-old, lives. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

María Branyas Morera is believed to have assumed the title following the death on Tuesday of French nun Lucile Randon aged 118, senior consultant for gerontology Robert D. Young said.

Guinness World Records must still make the official decision after carrying out document checks and interviewing Branyas Morera’s family, added Young, who is also the director of the Gerontology Research Group’s supercentenarian research database.

“We know what is likely, but it’s not confirmed at this time,” he wrote in an email sent to AFP.

Branyas Morera, who has lived through the 1918 flu, two world wars and Spain’s civil war, was not available for interviews.

The Santa Maria del Tura nursing home in the town of Olot in northeastern Spain, where Branyas Morera has lived for the past two decades, said it would hold a “small celebration” behind closed doors in the coming days to mark “this very special event”.

“She is in good health and remains surprised and grateful for the interest that has been generated,” it added in a statement.

Branyas Morera’s youngest daughter, 78-year-old Rosa Moret, attributed her mother’s longevity to “genetics”.

“She has never gone to the hospital, she has never broken any bones, she is fine, she has no pain,” Moret told regional Catalan television on Wednesday.

Branyas Morera was born in San Francisco on March 4, 1907 shortly after her family moved to the United States from Mexico.

The entire family decided to return to their native Spain in 1915 as World War I was under way, which complicated the ship’s voyage across the Atlantic.

The crossing was also marked by tragedy – her father died from tuberculosis towards the end of the voyage, and his coffin was thrown into the sea.

Branyas Morera and her mother settled in Barcelona.

In 1931 – five years before the start of Spain’s 1936-39 civil war – she married a doctor. The couple lived together for four decades until her husband died aged 72.

She has had three children, including one who has already died, 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Just weeks after ringing in her 113th birthday, Branyas Morera got Covid-19 and was confined to her room at her care home in Olot but made a full recovery.

“I haven’t done anything extraordinary, the only thing I did was live,” she told Barcelona-based daily newspaper La Vanguardia in 2019.

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HEALTH

What are the rules on IVF in Spain?

Spain has some of the best fertility clinics in Europe and people travel from all over for assisted reproduction techniques here, both because of the high success rates and standard of care, but what are the invitro fertilisation rules in Spain?

What are the rules on IVF in Spain?

Spain has the second lowest fertility rate in the EU, with an average of 1.23 children per woman, according to the latest data provided by the European Statistical Office, Eurostat, corresponding to 2019 and updated at the end of June 2021.

A report by the Spanish Fertility Society (SEF), says that more and more couples are having problems conceiving and many are choosing to undergo assisted reproductive techniques in order to become parents.  

They consider infertility as: “the inability to achieve pregnancy after one year of sexual intercourse with normal frequency and without the use of any method of conception”.

Although male infertility factors are responsible for between 25 percent to 35 percent of cases, the number of older women who want to have children in Spain is the number one issue, the society explains.

But, it’s not just Spaniards who use fertility clinics in Spain, people come from all over Europe and even further afield. A recent study by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine found that five percent of European fertility care involves patients cross border travel and that the most popular European destinations are Spain, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Belgium.

In 2019, Spanish fertility clinics carried out 18,457 treatment cycles for foreigners, the majority from France and Italy. According to Barcelona IVF, the French, English and Italian are the ones who travel the most to Spain to undergo fertility treatments.

So what are the rules on IVF and other assisted reproductive techniques in Spain? 

The In Vitro Fertilisation Law in Spain states that any woman over 18 years old can undergo reproductive techniques in Spain regardless of marital status and sexual orientation. Egg freezing for future use is also allowed.

This legal framework establishes that assisted reproductive techniques can only be used when there are possibilities of success and when they do not pose a serious risk to the health of the patient.

The IVF law in Spain does not allow for uterus transplants or the use of surrogates or gestational carriers.  

While the law has not yet incorporated any mention of ROPA techniques, this is also offered in Spain. The ROPA method is used when women in a same-sex relationship want to share parenthood, whereby one provides the egg and the other one carries the baby.

What is the law on PGD and PGS testing?

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis or PGD is when the embryos are tested for specific inherited genetic issues such as cystic fibrosis. PGS also referred to as PGT-A is Preimplantation Genetic Screening or Testing and tests to see whether the embryo is genetically normal. The second one is typically used for women over the age of 35 or for those who have had multiple implantation failures or miscarriages.

Both types of tests are legal in Spain, however, the IVF law prohibits these tests to allow for selecting the sex of the baby or for physical characteristics. In some countries, such as the US for example, it’s very common to find out the sex of the embryo when these tests are carried out.

What are the rules for IVF in public health care?

Assisted reproduction techniques such as IVF and artificial semination are available through the public health care system in Spain, however, out of the more than 400 fertility centres in Spain only between 10 and 20 percent are public centres.

READ ALSO: Spain restores free IVF to singles, lesbians and now trans people

This means that there are also long waitlists for reproductive techniques through the public system, as well as stricter rules. According to the latest data available, wait lists for IVF are just over one year, however, in many regions, this can go up to two years or longer. In fact, waiting much longer than this is not uncommon.

The government laws establish that the maximum age to undergo these treatments in the public health system is 40 years in the case of women and 55 years for men. This age limit drops to 38 in the case of insemination with a partner’s semen.

The state guarantees a maximum of three rounds of IVF, six if it is by artificial insemination with donor sperm and four if it is with a partner’s sperm. 

Some regions in Spain, have their own rules however such as Madrid which raised the age to 45 and increased the number of rounds from two to four. 

READ ALSO: Madrid raises age limit for women to have free IVF up to 45

What are the laws on egg and sperm donations?

The In Vitro Fertilisation Law in Spain also regulates egg and sperm donation. Egg and sperm donation in Spain is anonymous, voluntary and altruistic.  

The choice of the donor will only be made by a medical team and cannot be selected by the patients, however, doctors will try to match certain physical characteristics. 

Is embryo donation/ embryo adoption legal in Spain?

Yes, according to Article 11 of the law 14/2006 embryo donation or embryo adoption as it is commonly referred to is legal in Spain. Donations must be anonymous and altruistic. 

A couple may wish to donate their embryos if they have a surplus and have already completed their family, while a couple or single woman may want to adopt an embryo if there have issues with their eggs or sperm.

What are the costs of IVF in Spain? 

IVF is a costly process when you go privately, but prices in Spain can be almost half of those you would pay in the US for example. According to the IVF Abroad Patient’s Guide 2022 for IVF using your own eggs, the costs range from €3,600 to €6,700. 

If using an egg donor, it can range from €5,900 to €8,500. For IVF using embryo donation, the costs range from €3,000 to €5,000 and for IVF involving egg freezing, the costs range from €3,500 to €4,700.

Medications for the injections are typically not included in these prices and can cost an extra €1,000 on top. 

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