No record of how fertility clinic verified teen egg donor’s age: HC

Court says considering risks involved in procedure, crucial aspects can’t be brushed aside

Mumbai | Published: February 11, 2014 12:35:45 am
Egg donor Sushma Pandey’s mother Pramila Egg donor Sushma Pandey’s mother Pramila

There is no record to show how the age verification of Sushma Pandey — a 17-year-old oocyte or egg donor, who died two days after she donated eggs in 2010 — was carried out by Rotunda: The Centre for Human Reproduction, the Bombay High Court has observed.

After being reprimanded by the court in the preceding hearings, officers of the Saki Naka police station said in January they would carry out further investigation into the teen egg donor’s death. Justice Revati Mohite Dere, however, wrote in her order of January 22 that the investigation carried out in the case seemed “far from satisfactory.”

“No proper investigation appears to have been done by the police with the staff of the Rotunda Hospital, which had a record of the victim being an egg donor on three occasions prior to the unfortunate incident, except collecting of consent forms signed by the victim. It appears from the facts of the present case that there was flagrant violation of the requirement, that an egg donor had to be between the age of 18 and 35 years of age, whereas, the victim was only 17 years of age… and was donating eggs for at least a year-and-a-half prior to that,” Justice Dere observed.

“Considering the procedure and the potential risks and consequences of oocyte donation involved, certain crucial aspects with regard to verification of the age of the victim, the medical care before and after the procedure cannot be ignored nor brushed aside,” the court observed.

Rotunda had claimed that Pandey had shown a PAN card in the name of Sushma Pramod Dube as proof of her age. It indicated that she was 20 years old at the time of the egg donation, the hospital maintained.

The police, however, said the clinic had furnished no such PAN card. The police’s verification with the Income Tax department revealed that there was no PAN card in the name of Sushma Pramod Dube or Sushma Pandey.

“There is nothing on record to indicate on what basis age verification of the victim was done,” Justice Dere observed.

Earlier, in a reply to the complaint filed by Pandey’s mother before the Maharashtra Medical Council, medical director of Rotunda Dr Gautam Allahbadia had said, “As a clinic, it is not our duty to go behind and investigate the authenticity of the documents provided to us by the donor or the surrogates. The clinic is only responsible for the treatment and nothing more than that. I humbly submit that it is next to impossible for me or my staff to verify the genuineness of the PAN card or any other documents provided to me as proof of age.”

The court also took note of the potential risks listed in the consent form, allegedly signed by Pandey, prior to egg donation. These risks included bruising from injections and blood draws, over-stimulation of the ovaries resulting in temporary feelings of bloating and abdominal discomfort, allergic reaction or respiratory difficulty caused by intravenous sedatives administered for egg retrieval.

Parts of the consent form signed by Pandey have been reproduced in the court’s order. Pandey had signed a statement that said: “Egg retrieval involves placing a needle from the inside of the vagina into the ovaries. I understand that it is possible for a need(le) to cause injury to blood vessels or other structures and this may rarely result in the requirement for additional medical care.”

The court also said the police had not recorded the statement of one ‘Salma’ who had signed Pandey’s consent form as a witness.

The court made these observations while hearing a discharge application filed by Sanaullah Mustakin Khan, Pandey’s alleged boyfriend, who had accompanied her to the clinic where she donated eggs. The court allowed him to withdraw his application after he agreed to cooperate with the police’s further investigations in the case.

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