Infertility management is certainly challenging and assisted reproductive technique (ART) has been gaining in acceptance due to the rising prevalence of infertility in both males and females. Infertility is now affecting approximately 10–14 per cent of Indian couples, according to the Indian Society of Assisted Reproduction (ISAR). Low sperm counts in males and decreased egg reserves in females are two infertility issues that have become very prevalent in recent years. However, the latest ART law has increased the financial and mental burden of the couples who are already struggling for long and counting on donor IVF for parenthood.
In an exclusive interaction with the HealthSite, Dr. Priti Gupta, Senior Consultant in Fertility & IVF services, First Step IVF (Centre for Reproductive Medicine), New Delhi, has highlighted the shortcomings of the latest ART Act.
Understand ART (Assisted reproductive technique)
ART is a method of addressing infertility that entails managing the sperm or the oocyte outside of the body. The procedure entails removing a woman’s eggs from her body and combining them with sperm to create embryos. This process of transferring an embryo into the female reproductive system is known as assisted reproductive technique. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most common type of ART.
An overlook at the ART Laws
It is a fact that India has lately become one of the world’s top locations for fertility treatment due to its higher success rates and lower costs. Considering the same, on March 17, 2021, the Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Bill 2020 was presented in an effort to stop the “commercialization” of ART services.
The Bill stresses a strong emphasis on the secure and authorized use of ART services, such as IUI, IVF, ICSI, gamete donation, etc.
The law also requires ART banks and clinics to register with India’s National Registry of Banks and Clinics, which will act as a central database to track and prevent the illegal proliferation of IVF clinics.
The law also specifies guidelines for gamete donation, including permitting banks to obtain oocytes and semen from men and women between the ages of 21 and 55 and 23 and 35, respectively. Additionally, in order to donate oocytes, a woman must be married and have at least one living child of her own. Moreover, only seven of the woman’s oocytes can be removed from her during her lifespan. A single donor from the same bank cannot provide gametes to more than one commissioning couple. Insurance for the oocyte donor must be provided by the individual seeking ART treatments (in case of any loss, damage, or death of the donor).
Furthermore, prior to embryo implantation, genetic diseases screening is required.
Shortcomings of the latest ART Act
The most recent ART Bill mandates that couples choosing donor IVF obtain a judge’s signature on an affidavit before choosing donor gametes. IVF will only begin once all of the paperwork has been completed.
Commenting on this Dr Priti says, “The New ART regulation will put a strain on a couple’s finances as well as their emotional well-being. Because the price of the ART process, which previously ranged from 1.9 to 2.2 lacs, will increase to 2.5 to 2.9 lacs. The procedure is also time-consuming because, after the couple decides on the donor, they must hire a lawyer, who will charge them between Rs. 10,000 and 25,000, to prepare an affidavit and other required paperwork, such as proof of insurance, for the judge’s signature. This documentation process will therefore require 1-2 months.”
“The fact that the Judges are unaware of the new ART legislation is another important problem that has emerged as a result of it. They are not prepared to approve the documents as a result. Thus, the entire procedure is becoming longer,” she adds.
A body is needed to watch the legal formalities
Dr Priti reiterates that the ART law is unquestionably intended to improve ART services and avoid commercialization, however, the latest ART law may have a big effect on financially incompetent people, couples planning IVF at a late age (like the early 40s), and couples who are actually facing difficulties.
Answering on how to smooth the legal process, she says, “With regard to the new Art law, which stresses the creation of an affidavit signed by a judge, a board made up of government doctors or health authorities can be established who may supervise and access all paperwork and legalities. By doing this, we can shorten the process for couples wanting donor IVF to start a family in terms of cost, emotional toll, and timeline.”
Therefore, we require a board or body that may actively get involved and carefully watch the legal formalities, thereby ensuring a simple, open, and approachable process.