The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Centre bid to quality-check fertility clinics ruffles doctors

New Delhi, Sept. 4: The Indian Council of Medical Research today announced a set of guidelines to check malpractices in fertility clinics.

The rules for assisted reproductive technologies (ART) clinics make a spouse’s consent mandatory and bar gender selection. Relatives or friends will not be allowed to become donors. Human cloning is banned.

Surrogacy by assisted conception should be considered only in cases where the patient is not able to carry the baby a full term. Though there is no legal bar on unmarried or single women going for in-vitro fertilisation, the guidelines recommend it should be performed only on married women. That, too, with the consent of their husbands.

Semen should be accepted only from a semen bank, which should be an independent organisation. If set up by a fertility clinic, it must have a separate identity. A child conceived with the help of the technology should be presumed to be the legitimate child of the couple with all the attendant rights of support and inheritance.

The ICMR, in consultation with the National Academy of Medical Sciences, had set up a panel of experts to work out a system of checks and balances for fertility clinics. The rules will be debated in public for three months before being given the shape of a legislation. The guidelines have been put on the research council’s website. Assisted reproductive technologies are not included in the medical curriculum anywhere in India though 10 to 15 per cent of the adult population suffer from infertility.

“ART clinics have a sophistication rarely seen in other sectors. The guidelines may look Draconian but they are needed,” ICMR director-general N.K. Ganguly said.

But minutes after the guidelines were announced at a press conference, it was clear they would not be acceptable to a large section of private practitioners. Narendra Malhotra, who runs a test tube baby centre in Agra, protested the move to lay down specialisation norms for doctors and questioned the clause making accreditation mandatory for these clinics. “The clinics should be automatically accredited and should not have to be especially screened,” he said.

The experts’ panel countered, saying the guidelines had been introduced for the very purpose of checking shoddy functioning of fertility clinics. It also rejected the argument that a gynaecologist was automatically well versed in subjects like reproductive endocrinology, pathology, endoscopy and ultrasonography.

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