Boom of Infertility Clinics in India
chillibreeze writer — Gayatri A
James and Lisa Smith from Seattle came to India with the hopes of parenting a child, after battling with infertility for 3 years. No, this is not a case of cross country adoption but an instance of the boom of infertility treatments and clinics in India.
The Smith’s are just one of the many couples who find India a promising destination for assisted reproductive treatment or surrogacy.
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive and bear a child even after one year of unprotected intercourse. The global figure of infertility is about 15%, which is quite alarming.
Hormonal imbalance, tubal blockage, endometriosis, and infections are some of the causes of infertility in females while low sperm count, abnormal sperms, low levels of testosterone, blockage of ducts infections etc are the common causes among males. Late marriages, lifestyle factors like obesity, smoking, stress, exposure to harmful chemicals etc also play a role in the rising rates of infertility. The other causes include medical conditions, medicines, and malnutrition. In about 20-25% of infertility cases, the cause remains unexplained.
India is increasingly becoming a hot destination for assisted reproduction techniques (ART) like Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI), In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection ( ICSI ), Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration or Extraction and ICSI (PESA, MESA), Testicular Sperm Aspiration or Extraction and ICSI (TESA, TESE).
In addition to couples from all over India, most of the reputed infertility clinics are attending to couples from developed countries and South East Asia. A study by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on medical tourism estimates a business of $2.3 billion by 2012.
ART is one of the most sought after and revenue building services that India has to offer. ‘The cost of IVF, ICSI is about one-fifth to one tenth of the cost as compared to the cost in western countries,’ says a renowned infertility specialist from Mumbai.
People all over the world have been choosing India for a number of reasons. The hospitals that offer the latest diagnostic and treatment facilities, availability of experienced and highly qualified doctors, favorable legal support, lower costs, availability of English speaking doctors and care takers are some of the aspects in its favor.
India is also making its mark in providing donor eggs. According to an article by Jayachandran published in the Times of India, egg donation is becoming popular among Indian couples seeking infertility treatment but unable to afford the treatment. Surrogacy is another option available in the basket of treatments offered by India. Clinics that offer services for surrogacy have mushroomed in the past 5 years.
Every advantage in India that facilitates Assisted Reproduction is a boon to childless couples. But the boon also has a dark side to it. The basic act of treatment is getting commercialized and some also consider it to be unethical.
India has established itself as a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) center- but this time, the lucrative business is child making- Biological process outsourcing.
Having personally faced the trauma of waiting for hours in many infertility clinics, I can fully sympathise with the turmoil that the process entails. My job demanded me to constantly shift bases and so I had to change my doctor, every time I was transferred. With each new doctor came new opinions, more tests, more treatments and more worries.
Not a single doctor ever agreed with the diagnosis of the previous doctor and the trend continued till my husband and I got frustrated and finally gave up the hope of ever having a child. Now, we are at peace and have decided to adopt a child. However, I can’t help thinking of the entire trauma, wasted energy, time and money spent on various treatments and the confusion caused by the disagreement between highly qualified specialists.
My experience has led me into thinking that the so-called noble profession is just getting more and more business-oriented, with many such doctors pushing the patients into taking unnecessary tests and treatments. Commercialization is one of the major problems that burns holes in the pockets and minds of patients.
The other issue is concerned with the ethics of procurement and use of gametes; the risks and complications of procedures; sperm, egg, and embryo donations; social norms, and manipulations of the techniques used in assisted reproduction.
I would say that though India’s future in medical tourism is very bright, more stringent regulations are necessary to assure good quality of services. There is a vast possibility of doctors exploiting patients and approaching them callously as business clients.
With all the dazzle of money around, it is important that practitioners make ethical use of all that science and technology offer us today and stick to the humanitarian grounds and ethics of their profession.
India is known for its age-old traditions, culture, hospitability and compassion for serving, and it should continue to do so.
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