Enact a law to regulate assisted reproduction industry,protect donors and recipients
The death of 17-year-old Sushma Pandey,an underage egg donor in Mumbai,has drawn attention to assisted reproduction,which has grown to the proportions of an industry but is not regulated by a legislative framework or competent institutions. While her death cannot be immediately linked to the fact that she was a donor,it must underline the urgency for passing the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill,2010. The draft bill covers all bases and addresses assisted reproduction clinics,gamete banks and surrogacy as separate sectors. It details the rights and duties of all the parties involved and prescribes advisory and regulatory bodies at central and state levels. Regulators will be able to receive and evaluate complaints and pass them on to a magistrate for trial,if necessary.
Assisted reproduction has ballooned into an industry with transnational reach over the last decade precisely because of the absence of oversight. The requirement of registration and the right of regulators to inspect premises and records,which the draft bill specifies,would bring this industry out of the shadows. It now operates in a grey area,having only to comply with guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research,and adherence is not subjected to routine scrutiny. In the matter of the donors death in Mumbai,it appears that she used a fake proof of age without fear of discovery. And the police are still waiting to learn from a team of doctors at J.J. Hospital if they can launch proceedings against the clinic she attended.
Fertility rates are falling globally and 15 per cent of the population cannot have children on their own. This has made assisted reproduction an important medical area,especially so in India. The draft bill notes that here,childlessness is socially stigmatised and children are regarded as an insurance policy against old age. It is time to acknowledge these realities,and to accept that a policy vacuum exists. The government should enact the long-pending legislation to regulate the industry and bring it into mainstream medical practice,with adequate protection for donors,recipients and specialists.