IMA opposes the ART bill; feels it is not community friendly
Medical experts from around the world are vigorously working on enhancing human reproductive science by devising alternative ways to ease and diversify the existing options. As a result, it has become possible for childless couples and single parents to experience the joys of parenthood. ART comes as a ray of hope to the 15 million infertile couples residing in India. The concept has become extremely popular in the country over the past decade with childless couples flocking infertility clinics for options such as IVF and surrogacy.
In the wake of its growing popularity, there is no denying that a staunch and well-worked regulation is needed to supervise the functioning of thousands of IVF clinics. However the ART Bill scheduled to be tabled in the parliament lacks a humanistic approach. The Bill tries to address the prevailing problems by restricting the availability of ART options to a certain section of the population. In addition to this, it also puts stringent rules on IVF clinics, which in reality are not practical and will only cause an increase in the number of cases of violence and unwarranted legal suits against them.
Keeping this in mind the Indian Medical Association along with eight partner associations have together raised a strong opposition to the ART bill on six primary grounds. They have together initiated a petition, which has already been signed by over 7000 doctors.
Expressing the concern, Padma Shri Awardee Dr. A Marthanda Pillai –National President IMA and Padma Shri Awardee Dr. KK Aggarwal, Honorary Secretary General, IMA and President, HCFI said, “The proposed ART Bill has a number of loopholes, one of them being that it bars foreign couples from opting for surrogacy procedure in India. It also remains silent on laws for single parents and same sex couples. Restricting the services to a section of the society is not community friendly and we at Indian Medical Association feel that major revisions are needed before the act is implemented. The need of the hour is for a liberal and ethical ART law, which keeps a check on any exploitation by untrained and non-medical personnel while allowing trained IVF experts to function autonomously. The Act should be formulated in consultation with leading stakeholders like the IMA, ISAR, FOGSI, IFS, INSTAR, FPS (I) , USI and other such organizations which are representative of the masses and experts in the field”.
The six amendments required in the current bill as demanded by the IMA and key stakeholders including Dr. Prakash Trivedi, President FOGSI; Dr. H D Pai, President ISAR; Dr. Himanshu Bavishi, President INSTAR; Dr. Sonia Malik, President IFS; Dr Nalini Mahajan, President FPS(I); Dr. Jaideep Malhotra from Smriti Trust; Dr. P. Chibber, President USI; Dr.Narendra Malhotra. President Elect ISAR; Dr Maninder Ahuja, Gynaecologist and Dr.Alka Kriplani President Elect FOGSI include:
1. The age criterion to avail ART services should be the legal age i.e., 18 years and above and marriage should not be made a compulsion to avail ART services.
2. Medical acts are done in good faith and thus, presuming a doctor to be guilty without any proof goes against the very basic spirit of the law of the land.
3. Handling of Semen outside the body should not be brought under the umbrella of the ART Bill as this a basic service at the primary level. Hence, the treatment of IUI should be removed from the existing bill.
4. The ART Bank provisions in the current act are vague and arbitrary. There is a need to relooked and review these.
5. The number of oocytes to be retrieved and embryos to be implanted should be the decision of the treating doctor and not of the State authorities.
6. Commercial surrogacy caters to only 2% of the patients. Ethical and regulated surrogacy should thus be allowed for both Indian Nationals as well foreign nationals including OCI/PIO cardholders.