Thursday, December 20, 2012

Why is the Indian government creating obstacles for IVF tourism ?

India is supposed to be a leading medical center for reproductive tourism. Patients come from all over the world to India for IVF treatment , especially for procedures such as surrogacy.

One would expect the Indian government to actively promote medical tourism . Not only is this an excellent source of revenue for the country, it also helps to position India as a country which offers world-class medical facilities , at a fraction of the cost of what is available in the West. However, rather than promote medical tourism , the Indian government seems to take perverse pride in creating difficulties for IVF clinics.

A lot of patients who want surrogacy treatment have frozen embryos which they created and stored for themselves in IVF clinics all over the world. When they want surrogacy treatment , they need to transport these frozen embryos to India , so that the IVF clinic can then transfer these embryos into the surrogate’s uterus. Shipping frozen embryos is a very simple medical procedure , which IVF clinics do routinely all the time. However, the Indian customs department no longer allows Indian IVF clinics to import embryos ! They have stopped this for many months , by claiming that the ICMR has still not authorized which IVF clinics are permitted to import embryos.

While I understand that it's important to regulate IVF clinics to ensure that infertile patients get a high quality of service , the problem is that the ICMR seems to be in no hurry to actually implement any of their decisions. They have not even started to inspect IVF clinics in order to register them. Just like these frozen embryos are in a state of suspended animation, it appears that the regulating authorities are also in a state of suspended animation , because they have not taken any action in this regard for many months, inspite of numerous reminders. While they may not consider this to be a matter of urgency, this failure to act creates a lot of heartburn and angst for infertile patients who are very keen to get on with their treatment , so that they can have a baby and showered their love and affection on their child.  However, if they cannot ship their embryos to India, they will not be able to pursue surrogacy treatment here. Not only is this a major loss for them, it is also a major loss for Indian IVF clinics who can then no longer provide this service to their patients. Even worse , these patients then end up going to other countries such as Thailand , who are much more progressive and liberal in their attitudes. If the government continues to take this kind of obstructionist stand , the future for Indian medical tourism seems to be very bleak. While it is too much to expect the government to actually support private medical clinics , even though they are foreign exchange earners for the country. It's very heartbreaking and disappointing when they actually create obstacles for doctors and medical service providers.

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