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Experts hail ART Regulation Bill as 'path-breaking'



New Delhi, February 21 (IANS): Experts have hailed as "path-breaking" the Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Regulation Bill, 2020, that provides for the regulation of assisted reproductive services in the country.


The Bill, approved by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday, aims to ensure that infertile couples will be more assured/confident of ethical practices in ART services. It provides for the setting up of a national board to lay down a code of conduct for those operating fertility clinics.


Two experts whom IANS talked to said it is path-breaking for women''s reproductive rights and also address changing social contexts and technological advances, apart from providing the framework for the growth of this sector.


"It will bring huge benefits to such couples... it will help achieve standardised quality care that improves their chances of conception as well as guarantees a minimum standard of care expected of an ART centre," Dr Kshitiz Murdia, CEO, Indira IVF Hospital, told IANS.


Similarly, Vishal Bali, Executive Chairman, Asia Healthcare Holdings, said: "The ART Bill is a good move on IVF services and create the right quality framework for the growth of this sector."


In recent times, India has become one of the major centres of fertility treatment industry, with reproductive medical tourism becoming a significant activity.


Clinics in India offer nearly all ART services like "gamete donation, intrauterine insemination (IUI), In vitro fertilisation (IVF), Intracytoplasmic sperm injection(ICSI), pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and gestational surrogacy.


However, in spite of so much activities going on in India, there was no standardisation of protocols and reporting of illegal cases was quite inadequate.


"India is definitely a preferred destination for IVF treatment because of higher success rates and affordable cost. Medical tourists would have more trust if the industry is regulated and institutes are accredited," said Dr Murdia.


"Accreditation standards in the healthcare delivery sector will provide patients access to safe infrastructure, right technology, global SOPs and processes backed by qualified clinical talent. The industry hopes that the Bill will lead to a more organised sector in India in line with global standards and practices," Bali said.


The need to regulate Assisted Reproductive Technology services is mainly aimed to protect affected women and children from exploitation.


The ART bill mandates that "the oocyte donor needs to be supported by an insurance cover, protected from multiple embryo implantation and children born through assisted reproductive technology should be provided with all rights equivalent to biological children. The cryopreservation of sperm, oocytes and embryo by the ART banks needs to be regulated and the Bill intends to make pre-genetic implantation testing mandatory for the benefit of the child born through assisted reproductive technology."


"Insurance cover for oocyte donor would actually make the donor practices more standardised and remove exploitation of the donor. We have to work a lot in the donor programme to increase transparency and improve the welfare of surrogate mothers as they mostly come from weaker sections and are thus prone to exploitation. Better awareness, strengthening of the whole process from recruitment to pick-up in terms of consenting and identity management, putting checks on agencies recruiting donors, ensuring a national registry, standardised protocol to reduce ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) risks are some of the factors that need to be in place to protect their interests," said Dr Murdia.


"The long-pending ART Bill is a great step by the government as it will help establish trust in the treatment quality for patients both from domestic and international markets. However a lot still needs to be done by the government to smoothly implement the Bill once it becomes an Act, mainly including registration of all ART clinics and forming a central database," he added.


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