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When IVF Fails, Other Therapies Can Help

Friday, December 13, 2013

REGULATING IVF TREATMENT IN NIGERIA


InVitro Fertilisation (IVF) is increasingly becoming a
method of bringing joy and laughter to fertility challenged couples all over the world. According to recent reports over one million babies have been conceived through the test-tube method globally with 40,000 taking place in Nigeria.

Many marriages which had hitherto hit the rock in Nigeria due to the problem of childlessness have been restored. So, it’s all kudos to the technology and the experts who have been involved in the service, particularly in Nigeria.

However, for us to continue to enjoy the benefits of the life giving  technology, it is important, doctors and other stakeholders look into some disturbing practices that have crept into the scene. There seems to be no regulatory measures concerning the practice as a result of which incompetent and unethical methods are now the order of the day.

I recently heard a story of how a donor egg was used for a couple without their consent. Fortunately, the woman had a little knowledge of IVF procedure and was able to detect that something was wrong. She knew that for an embryo to be produced, a woman’s egg should be collected and fertilized with a man’s sperm.
But in their own case, her husband’s sperm was collected after which she was asked to come to the clinic for embryo transfer. She was surprised and wanted to know how the embryo came about without her egg. What followed was accusations and counter accusations between the couple, the doctor and his staff which eventually ended at the police station.

A lot of other cases of unethical practices abroad. Practitioners do all kinds of things to convince couples that they are the best and live them to their clinics, just to make money.

In 2012, the Association for Fertility and Reproductive Health (AFRH) of Nigeria, approved minimum standards for clinics offering Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)/IVF in Nigeria.

The guidelines which focused on the type of personnel that can operate in an IVF Clinic, the qualification, and experience necessary for such clinic operations also outlined the number of embryos that can be transferred in a treatment cycle. It recommended a maximum of two embryos for patients less than 30 years old, three for 31-38 years old, and not more than four for those above 38 years. It also required and mandated all IVF centres to keep records of procedures and have informed consent.

Unfortunately, accounts of couples who have undergone IVF treatment show that what obtains in many clinics is far from the recommendations of AFRH. In some cases, like the one I narrated earlier, the details of the procedure are known only to the doctor. Capitalising on the ignorance of some couples and their desperation to have their own children, the doctors manipulate the procedure, throwing all ethical guideline over board to achieve results. Many of them insert up to seven fertilized eggs instead of the recommended numbers inspite of the dangers it poses to the mother and the baby.

What about quacks who have hijacked the technology. At a public event recently, the Chief Medical Director, The Bridge Clinic, Dr Richard Ajayi, lamented that more than 60 per cent of people offering IVF service in the country do not have the facilities and qualified personnel for it, but have continued to do so in order to get money from patients.

He said that due to the perceived financial benefits and patronage, doctors and health workers who know little or nothing about IVF have continued to take advantage of couples in need by offering services they lack the right infrastructure to offer.

We all know that IVF treatment is very expensive. Infact, to go through one treatment cycle, some couples have to sell their properties or borrow money from different sources. It will therefore, be intensity of those  in authority to allow these couples to be ripped off by doctors, both the qualified and unqualified ones. The  procedure for IVF and the cost should be standardised.

Strict regulation and monitoring of IVF activities in the country is the only way to protect the patients and eliminate quacks from the system. It will also serve as a check for medical practitioners who have been making false claims to draw more patients. As Professor Osato Giwa-Osagie, co-pioneer of IVF  in Nigeria advised, “we must regulate how many embryos should be transferred. We must determine what qualifies you to operate an IVF clinic and what should be the qualification of doctors who offer infertility treatments.”

In addition; couples opting for IVF should be educated properly on the procedures for the treatment. Ignorance, can be very dangerous to the mother, the baby and can lead to continuous waste of money and emotional trauma.

 

By Calista Ezeaku

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