Dr Manoj Chellani vouches for stronger ART Bill

When a baby boy was born to Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan and his wife Gauri, the miracle of science had enough bouquets as well as brickbats. Now that the euphoria has vapourised, it is high time, we looked into the commercialised angle involved around the surrogacy, says a press statement.

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Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) through which surrogacies are conducted is estimated to be fastest growing million dollar industry in Indian market and is helping medical tourism sector to show humungous growth. Dr Manoj Chellani, IVF Expert, Aayush ICSI test Tube Baby Centre is vouching for a stronger ART Bill.
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In a free wheeling conversation with Jayashankar Menon, the IVF Expert shares his thought about surrogacy and the relevance for an ART Bill with more teeth. Excerpts
JM: What is your take on the proposed ART Bill?
MC: While the proposed ART Bill is much awaited step towards regulation, there is much to be desired from several clauses especially concerning commercial surrogacy. Over the last few years the severe issues of safety, rights, costs and ethical practice has been raised due to this unregulated proliferation.
JM: Can you elaborate on the ART Bill?
MC: The 2010 Bill is drafted taking extra precautions so that no surrogate can extend claim over the baby. The Bill only permits the gestational surrogacy i.e through In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and Embryo Transfer (ET), while the genetic surrogacy i.e through Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI) is prohibited. By outlawing genetic surrogacy though the contract can be preserved, but the chances of a less commercial surrogacy dies out.
JM: What is the percentage of increase of the number of permitted successful live birth for a surrogate?
MC: The number of permitted successful live birth for a surrogate has been increased from three to five (inclusive of her own children) in the present draft. Since the live birth is not always equivalent to the number of ART cycles, this may be critical for the surrogate’s health as the success rate of procedure is low. Therefore considering the surrogate’s health, it’s essential to specify the number of permitted cycles she can undergo.
JM: Are the provisions of ART Bill strong enough having enough space for misuse and exploitation?
MC: It has been clearly mentioned in the draft that a surrogate can undergo only three embryo transfer per couple. But the draft has no mention as for how many couples she can do the same. Once again considering that the procedure has low success rate, all embryo transfer or ART cycles may not result in successful births. Thus, a surrogate may go through n number of cycles and embryo transfers before achieving the set limit of five in result adversely impacting her health. Hence the provisions are not so strong and have enough space for misuse and exploitation.
JM: Can you throw some light on the payment aspect to the surrogate mother?
MC: The 2008 draft says that the payment to the surrogate can be done in three installments while paying 75 percent in the first go. The revision which was made in 2010 draft stipulates that the payment will be in five installments and 75 percent will be paid in fifth and final part followed after the delivery of child. This clearly shows that priority is for the intended parents. Without any reproductive output ‘the baby’, the surrogate’s labour, pregnancy, health problems, physical risk and related emotional are considered meaningless. The revision therefore is not balanced and is unfavourable for surrogate.
JM: Accord to the current Bill, the would parents should be ‘appropriately’ insured the surrogate mother and the child she selivers. Is there any ambiguity in the draft of the Bill?
MC: The Bill ensures that would be parents should ‘appropriately’ insured the surrogate mother and the child she delivers. It would have been much better if Bill had elaborated more on the nature and extent of insurance that would be provided to the surrogate mother, with regard to post-delivery follow-up and care . Furthermore, it should also highlight that breaching this, the commissioning parents and the overseeing clinic would be held legally responsible.
JM: What about the surrogacy arrangements for the couple staying out of India?
MC: In case of surrogacy arrangements if the intended couple is staying out of India then according to the Bill it is mandatory to appoint a local guardian who will be legally responsible to take delivery of the surrogate’s child born if the commissioning parent does not do so. What is more, the drafted Bill should also specifically demarcate the role of ‘local guardian’ so that the child may not be handed over to the adoption agency or is not abused in any way. Further provision to this would help growth of the child in fair manner if the intended parents betray the contract.
JM: Also with reference to the recent controversial cases including Dan Goldberg and Baby Manji, do you think the Bill should have more muscle?
MC: With regard to the recent controversial cases (Dan Goldberg, Baby Manji etc) of international surrogacy that have ended in fights for legal citizenship status for the child, the 2010 bill has provisions to settle that. The 2010 draft Bill orders that any foreign couple interested in having surrogacy in India should present a certificate from their country declaring that they are permitting surrogacy and will recognise the child born out of surrogacy as their legal citizen. Nevertheless, this is a welcome move.
JM: Can you talk about Aayush ICSI Test Tube Baby Centre and its activities?
MC: Aayush ICSI Test Tube Baby Centre is situated at Shankarnagar, Raipur in Chhattisgarh. The Centre is focused on providing moral, emotional, ethical and most advanced technical support to couples trying out to find a solution to the images of infertility. We specialise in each and every aspect of infertility and provide comprehensive services in IUI, IVF, IVF-ICSI, Assisted Hatching, egg donation, embryo donation, surrogate motherhood, male infertility, natural infertility treatment, semen banking, embryo freezing, sexual and psychological problem and try to give moral and emotional support to our infertility patients. The Centre is equipped with the state-of-the-art infrastructure and staffed with the team of highly trained professional with only one aim and that is to deliver the joy of parenthood to make sure that we leave no stone unturned to achieve the same.

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