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Rulebook leash on fertility clinics

Shaken by the news of a 35-year-old woman, who desperately wanted to be a mother but acquired HIV instead through donor insemination, the state government on Monday decided to crack down on all “unscrupulous infertility clinics”.

There are over 2,500 small to medium infertility clinics in the city and the districts, but few conform to the National Guidelines for Accreditation, Supervision and Regulation of ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) Clinics in India. The ART regulation is yet to become an Act. Infertility experts say that only after the national guidelines are passed in Parliament in the ensuing winter session and subsequently made into an Act, will the government be able to regulate ART clinics.

The state health department on Monday activated a special committee, formed years ago to keep an eye on infertility clinics, but which did precious little to stop underhand activities in ART clinics, apart from holding a few meetings. “We have a committee comprising healthcare personnel, who are supposed to look after the clinics. They have been asked to crack down on all clinics that do not follow norms,” director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee said.

Even as infertility experts called for a thorough probe, health department officials said they were not planning any probe, since neither the infected woman nor her family had lodged any complaint. “It is impossible to find out whether she got infected from one of the clinics she visited,” said state health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra.

Government officials have decided to ensure that ART clinics don’t disregard rules. Director of medical education C.R. Maity announced that all infertility clinics will have to obtain a separate licence from the government, based on ART clinic guidelines. Now, infertility clinics only need to register themselves and obtain the regular clinic licences to function.

Infertility experts of the city have called for a thorough probe into the case of the woman contracting HIV during artificial insemination. “There is no way one can conclusively say that she was infected during her six failed inseminations,” said infertility expert Baidyanath Chakraborty. Echoing him, expert Sudarshan Ghosh Dastidar said it is virtually impossible to “pinpoint the source of infection,” but people should be careful when they choose infertility clinics. “Taking all precautions is a must, like quarantining the semen for six months before insemination,” he added.

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