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Monday, September 29, 2014

“There are 20 million infertile couples in India”

How long has the Bill on regulating ART been pending?

It is 15 years since efforts began to bring in a law to regulate the assisted reproductive technologies business in India. In Hyderabad, medically aware and responsible citizens came together to set up a group in 1995 to discuss issues pertaining to the ART business and met every single month. A high-powered committee by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) was set up which got dissolved; later, people’s participation in the drafting of the Bill was sought; consultations with various commissions — human rights and law — were done. Now the Bill has been finalized from our side a month ago. The Health Ministry received the final draft Bill by September 15. Now that the draft has been finalized and frozen, we have to wait and see what the Cabinet does with it. This Bill is absolutely crucial if the rights of couples seeking infertility treatment, medical service providers and other stakeholders involved have to be safeguarded.

Is there any data available on how many ART centers exist in India?

Unfortunately, no. The ICMR had identified nearly 1,200 ART centers across India. Only a small proportion of these are registered. My guess is it should be four or five times greater than what was identified.

What about the guidelines laid down by the ICMR for fertility clinics?

In 2005, the ICMR framed detailed guidelines to be followed by ART centers. However, at present, the ICMR guidelines have no legal standing. Over 20 million couples in India are infertile. It is a well-established fact that all over the world, between 10-15 per cent of couples in a population are infertile. This has resulted in hospitals and private clinics with offers for ART services mushrooming all over the country. But in the complete absence of legislation, there is scope for malpractices, and right now, there is no way to ensure that these centers follow the ICMR guidelines.

Could you give a few examples of the malpractices in this sector?

I shall narrate a true incident. I knew of a family in which the mother found her son to be infertile. Although the blame for not having a child usually goes to the woman, in this case, the mother was convinced the fault lay with her son, and she took her daughter-in-law to a fertility clinic. The daughter-in-law, it was decided by the family, would be inseminated with sperm donated by a family friend’s son. Because the identity of the donor was known, the daughter-in-law ended up having sexual intercourse with the donor and she became pregnant. This caused the family a lot of distress. But the daughter-in-law did this in order to save her family the expenses of the treatment.

In the draft Bill regulating ART, strict clauses that all donations of semen and egg must be anonymous have been included because as the example above demonstrates, knowledge of the donor can strain existing relationships.

There are other problems too. Many clinics do not test the semen for its quality. Besides affecting the quality of the baby born, diseases can be transmitted this way too. The Bill also restricts surrogate mothers from donating oocytes for reasons that the child should be the biological child of the commissioning parents. However, there are instances now where surrogates are also used as oocyte donors.

Rules and regulations have also been framed in the present Bill which lay down that the surrogate should register her own name in hospital. But the child’s birth certificate does not have the surrogate’s name in it and names the commissioning parent.

Due to the exploitation suffered by surrogate mothers, activists are demanding a ban on it. Yours views?

It is totally undesirable that there be a ban on this. However, rights of the surrogate mother have to be protected and the Bill ensures that.

Sources: http://www.thehindu.com/sunday-anchor/there-are-20-million-infertile-couples-in-india/article6453374.ece

1 comment:

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