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Sunday, October 20, 2013

FERTILITY SERVICES IN NIGERIA: WHERE IS THE REGULATION?



At an informal chat in our Consultants' Lounge at my place of work, a senior colleague warned me to beware of special interests entrenched in the fertility services in Nigeria when the issue of ethical practice, policies and regulations came up for some critical discuss. These clinics are springing up in major cities in Nigeria, and the whole thing is becoming a multi-billion naira black market business scooping the desperation of couples and other persons who want to have children at any cost, literally. However, there appears not to be any existing legislature regulating this practice in Nigeria, and I am not aware of any existing policy by any medical specialties or government board in the country stipulating procedures in fertility services. Please anyone who knows of any existing regulation could bring it to attention.
The resultant effect is all manner of media advertisements and claims for fertility "guarantee" by all shades of centres parading as fertility clinics and now young men are sought to sell sperms in circumstances that present grave danger to public interest and may bring about a whole new unintended genetic consequences and ethical dilemma. The report in Punch newspapers on how selling sperm has become a street business in the city calls for urgent intervention.

Since these sperms are stored in a bank and since sperms are tissues and sperm banks are tissues banks, which is the regulatory body at the national or state levels? Who assesses the quality of laboratory procedures carried out at the sperm banks in Nigeria? Who evaluates, for public interest, the ethical policies used in accessing sperms from the donors? Who monitors and ensures the rights of both the clients of fertility clinics and the sperm donors are protected? Apart from testing for infections such as hepatitis and HIV, do these banks also test for genetic diseases and which ones? Who ensures that the screening is thorough and in line with standard of practice? Has anyone reviewed the policies and procedures of sperm banks to ensure they align with best practice, safety and ethical imperatives? What are the measures put in place to track, monitor and evaluate each semen donor and their specimens to avert abuse of process and assure safety for individuals and the larger society? 
Feeding off on the desperation of childless couples and largely uniformed donors, who are only concerned about the economic benefit in a harsh socioeconomic reality, sounds like exploitation and corruption.