IVF CLINICS MUSHROOM IN THE ABSENCE OF ICMR GUIDELINES
According to the estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO), 13 – 19 million couples are infertile in India. This has also led to mushrooming of In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) clinics across the country. Even as the stand alone clinics grow without any hinderances, only a few of them are actually enrolled with the national registry of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
According to their data, out of almost 1500 Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) centers, only about 385 are registered with them. This is probably because the registration process requires extensive details like the technique of ART they are providing, kind of facilities and manpower and their qualification, licensing of ultrasound machines and other equipment, number of patients per week, the details of the embryologist and other specialists, whether the clinic is doing some genetic study or only IVF. Not all clinics are registering, only the big well-known ones are. These days, people are opening IVF clinics at homes as well. A small gynaecologist’s clinic can easily be turned into an IVF clinic.
Let’s face it.. the outcome of IVF treatments depends purely on the doctors’ experience and efficiency. IVF involves procedures of extracting eggs and sperm and making them fertilized in vitro and then implanting fertilized egg in a woman’s uterus. The task is performed by a multidisciplinary team. There are ethical issues involved in the IVF treatment as we fertilize egg and sperm outside the body. At times some centres use donors’ sperm to fertilize egg in case of low sperm count of the husband. They do so without taking consent of concerned person. Hence these IVF centers fail at providing quality and ethical services. There has to be a regulatory body which monitors the operation of IVF clinics to curb unethical practices.
As fertility experts, we feel that the ICMR has regulatory guidelines. But in the absence of the law, they are ‘toothless’ and only the ART Bill can ensure strict compliance. The bill has been in the works for many years now (the possible reasons for which we shall discuss in another article) but is still awaiting the Parliament nod.