Docs irate over govt surrogacy proposals
Up in arms against the newlyrevised draft of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines on assisted reproductive techniques (ART) and surrogacy — which were recently presented in the Parliament — doctors from across the country have cited several lacunae that have left them extremely furious and unhappy.
At a national conference for 'endoscopy and IVF for international patients' in the city on Friday, doctors present said they jointly believed ICMR should change the draft.
At a discussion on the sidelines of the conference, they primarily took umbrage over the fact that ART centres and semen banks that also have frozen eggs or oocytes, embryos, etc., will all be regulated and recognised by the Government of India. After the bill is passed, doctors say government agencies will take control of the system, overriding doctors involved and dealing directly with couples. Agency-suggested frozen eggs or surrogate mothers will be suggested to doctors, leaving them with no choice. According to the medicos, this will give way to poor quality eggs and surrogates. Doctors were even more alarmed by the mention of cognisable offence and three years rigorous imprisonment (RI) if a form meant to be filled by donors is not done properly.
Delhi-based IVF expert Dr Shivani Gour, director and founder of the Surrogacy Centre of India and member of the International Society of Gynaecological Endoscopists (ISGE), said, "These ICMR guidelines have not gone down well with us — one is that the donor eggs or embryos will be provided to us by some agency or agents. After the bill is passed, the government will have total hold over all ART centres and semen banks in India. Only centres providing a couple with eggs or sperm can suggest a surrogate mother, which is unacceptable. Doctors have been totally excluded. This will give way to low quality or untested eggs and a chance to agencies to take financial advantage."
Another IVF expert and member of the same society, Dr Ritu Santwani, director of the Pune Test Tube Baby Centre, said, "In case we have a sperm donor whose sample is frozen and he fails to fill out a certain form correctly or leaves a column unfilled, we will have to face charges of a cognisable, nonbailable offence, with three years RI. Which doctor would want to work under such terrorising laws drafted by a committee blindly following NGOs?"
IVF expert and past president of the Pune Obstetrics and Gynaecological Society (POGS), Dr Sanjeev Khurd, said, "Corruption will increase and the quality of babies born out of surrogacy or ART will go down, because the system to monitor agencies and banks is not in place with the government. What is the guarantee that doctors will be provided with proper eggs and surrogate wombs? These guidelines provide high chances of babies being born with abnormal conditions, with malnourished surrogates or those in compromised conditions likely to increase. The government does not have trained manpower to test and detect every sample — agencies can then play fraud and get a legal chance to mint money, as they will deal directly with couples, not doctors."
Dr Himanshi Bavishi, president of the Indian Society of Third Party Assisted Reproduction (INSTAR), said, "We all agree that ICMR needs to revise its ART and surrogacy guidelines. Societies like POGS, INSTAR, IGSE and others have planned to send our recommendations and suggestions to the council. The aim is to help couples who will be at a loss if these guidelines are approved, as it will give way to corruption quality compromises. Recommendations will be sent before the winter session and signed by all of us."