To curb sharp practices, the Lagos State government has rolled out new regulations and guidelines for the assisted reproductive technology (ART) practice.
In a country where there is no federal or state regulation to guide ART, the new guidelines launched by Dr. Jide Idris, the Commissioner for Health, are seen by stakeholders as blazing a trail in assisted reproductive treatment in Nigeria.
Stressing that the public and genuine ART practitioners would be the ultimate beneficiaries of the new guidelines, Idris said the guidelines will “bring order, decorum and professionalism” to the management of options for infertile couples.
Among other things, the new guidelines specifically address issues, such as registration, accreditation, renewal of clinics, monitoring, enforcement and penalties in ART practice. Besides creating a regulatory body for ART, it also sets the minimum standards for assisted reproductive treatment practices with regards to clinical practice, facilities, personnel and ethical issues.
Commenting on how inclusive and representative the new regulations are, immediate past president of Assisted Reproductive (AFRH) association, Dr. Faye Iketubosin, said the guidelines will mandate every practitioner to conform to minimum standards in terms of personnel, equipment and overall understanding of the practice of ART.
“This is an inclusive document; it’s not in any way meant to be penalty-driven. It will guide all practitioners to be on the same page so that the people we are here to serve get the best out of us,” he said.
On the imperative of registration and accreditation, the Acting Executive Secretary of Health Facility Monitoring and Accreditation Agency (HEFAMAA), Dr. Abiola Idowu, emphasised that it is compulsory for medical outfits desirous of doing business in Lagos State to register with the agency. This, she empasissed, is important in order to protect the patients and ART as a subset of medical practice, adding that the agency will never shirk its responsibility of using its regulatory powers to improve the performance of healthcare system in the state – both in the public and private facilities.
Former chief medical director, Lagos Island Maternity, Dr. Donald Imosemi, who delivered the speech, titled: “Assisted reproductive technology: The Journey so far,” traced the genesis of the guidelines.
He described infertility as a global public health issue affecting between 10 and 15 per cent of couples of reproductive age, adding that those who render services in this area should conform to international best practices.
Due to the high premium placed on child-bearing in many African cultures, Imosemi lamented that infertility is often associated with devastating social, emotional and psychological consequences that condemn many homes to perpetual misery, with those caught up in the infertility web leaning towards options that push up the booming demand for ART treatment.
In response to demands, ART practice outfits in Lagos expectedly rose within a short period, from very few in 1999 to over 20 clinics by last December.
As many couples battle anxiety when it dawns on them that their chances of having children get dimmer with time and age, they often become desperate to try all means available, making to fall prey to those claiming to have solutions to infertility issues.
According to Imosemi, the absence of specific laws and regulations also opened doors for many undocumented and unregistered practitioners to infiltrate ART practice, leading to public outcry of unwholesome practices. Tales of extortion, unorthodox practices, and quackery became rife, forcing the state government to ramp up efforts to address growing public concerns.
This forced the state government to constitute a committee in 2013 to develop recommendations that culminated into the operational guidelines for ART.