The fate of hundreds of eggs and sperm of foreigners lying in cold storage is in limbo as the Indian Council of Medical Research in October last year sent letters to fertility experts instructing them not to carry out surrogacy procedures for foreigners.
Doctors claim that they weren’t aware of the sudden development by the central government, and had already taken eggs and sperm from foreigners for surrogacy. As there is no clarity from the government yet, the doctors are uncertain about the future of the frozen eggs and sperm.
“It has been more than eight months, but we haven’t received any clarity from the government regarding the issue. This is traumatic for the couples whose eggs, embryos and sperm have been kept for an unlimited time,” said Dr Naina Patel, a surrogacy expert in India. She has currently frozen around 300 eggs, embryos and sperm in her centre at Anand in Gujarat.
Medical experts say that as foreigners freeze these eggs, embryos and sperm, they should either be allowed to take it back to their country or allowed to go forward with the surrogacy.
“If an embryo has been created, it has potential life and shouldn’t be allowed to lie in a freezer for any amount of time. There should be a process to utilise it,” said Dr Manish Banker, former president of Indian Society For Assisted Reproduction.
Echoing the similar views, Dr Indira Hinduja, a well-known IVF expert in Mumbai from PD Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research Centre, said that she was keenly waiting for a response from the government regarding the several frozen eggs, embryos and sperm kept at her hospital.
“The government should at least allow the already fertilised embryos or given eggs or sperm to undergo surrogacy. In many countries, surrogacy is not allowed so they often come to India for it. But many a time, it leads to legal battles or confusions. But couples who come from the U.S. or other countries where this practise is legal, should be allowed to take back their rightful specimens that have already been given,” said Dr Hinduja.
Surrogacy is a time-consuming procedure where an egg is removed from the donor and then fertilised in a lab with the sperm donor. Then the fertilised egg is cultured for 2-3 days and inserted into the uterus of the carrier.