JAIPUR: All clinics in India, involved in treating infertility through procedures like artificial insemination with husband's semen (AIH) or in-vitro fertilization-embryo transfer (IVF), will now have to get registered in the country's first National Registry of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) clinics in India.
In order to regulate the ART trade in India, the Union health ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) are setting up the Registry "with a view to providing appropriate help and assistance to all those who are engaged in taking care of infertility problems in the country."
All clinics practicing techniques such as Artificial Insemination with Donor Semen (AID), Gamete Intrafallopian Tube Transfer (GIFT), Tubal Embryo Transfer (TET), Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), Testicular Sperm Aspiration (TESA), Testicular Sperm Extraction (TESE) or processing or storage of gametes (sperm and oocyte) and or embryos will have to be part of the Registry.
Each registrant will be given a unique registration number by the ICMR that could be used by the registrant for any legitimate purpose.
ICMR estimates that 15% of couples around the world are infertile, making infertility as one of the most prevalent medical problems with enormous social implications. In India, infertility widely carries with it a social stigma.
"With the enormous advances in medicine and medical technologies, 85% of the cases of infertility can be taken care of through medicines, surgery and/or the new medical technologies such as IVF or ICSI. Most of the new technologies aimed at taking care of infertility involve handling of the gamete - spermatozoa or the ooctye - outside the body. They also often involve the donation of spermatozoa or oocyte, or the use of a surrogate mother who would be carrying a baby with whom she has no biological relationship. These technologies not only require expertise, but also open up many avenues for unethical practices that can affect adversely the recipient of the treatment, medically, socially and legally," ICMR said.
It added, "The last 20-odd years have seen an exponential growth of infertility clinics that use techniques. As of today, anyone can open infertility or ART clinic; no permission is required to do so. There has been, consequently a mushrooming of such clinics around the country. In public interest therefore, it has become important to regulate the functioning of such clinics to ensure that the services provided are ethical and that the medical, social and legal rights of all those concerned are protected."
The ICMR's ART Bill, 2010, has put in place several important provisions. It says a woman acting as surrogate mother in India cannot be less than 21 years or over 35 years. Also, she cannot give more than five live births, including her own children.
No surrogate mother shall undergo embryo transfer more than three times for the same couple. If a surrogate mother is married, the consent of her spouse is mandatory. Only Indian citizens can be considered for surrogacy. No ART bank or clinic can send an Indian citizen for surrogacy abroad. Strict confidentiality has to be maintained about the donor's identity.
A would-be surrogate mother will be duty bound not to engage in any act that could harm the fetus during pregnancy and the baby after birth.
Besides, no woman can be treated with gametes or embryos derived from the gametes of more than one man or woman during any one treatment cycle. An ART clinic cannot mix semen from two individuals before use. "Now, if the sperm count is less in a semen sample, it is mixed with multiple samples for a good count. This is unethical, and won't be allowed," experts said.
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