Fertility clinics forced to destroy frozen embryos Filed on June 23, 2010

DUBAI Fertility clinics in the country are being forced to destroy thousands of frozen human embryos since there are no takers, say doctors.

As per a recently passed federal law, the clinics have been given a deadline till June 30 to “dispose of” the embryos. However, medical ethics require centres to obtain permission from couples before taking any decision.

“Most couples who have had the embryos stored with us for years have either left the country or have changed their addresses,” said Dr Pankaj Shrivastav, gynaecologist and fertility expert from Sharjah. “We have no choice but to destroy them without permission.”

Of the 128 couples who had kept the embryos with Dr Pankaj’s clinic, Conceive, only 113 could be reached, of whom only 23 opted for having the embryos transferred.

“There is approximately a 36 per cent chance of success even if they have the embryos put back in,” said Dr Pankaj. “So if the first attempt is unsuccessful, the couples cannot retry again.”

Of those contacted, only five couples gave permission to discard the embryos. “Many haven’t bothered for long, and even now it does not matter to them.”

A federal ruling passed two years ago barred fertility clinics from storing embryos on religious grounds, fearing mixing in lineage.

The frozen embryos are artificially implanted in women who cannot conceive naturally. After transferring fresh embryos conceived through IVF, the remaining are stored and are known to be viable for up to 10 years.

However, two of Dr Pankaj’s patients are currently pregnant and have no chance of saving the embryos. They may later opt to store eggs that work in the same way but with a lower success rate, said Dr Pankaj.

The Dubai Gynecology and Fertility Centre that stores an estimated 5,000 eggs turned down requests asking for details of their current status.

“The centre is following the process as per the UAE law and we shall complete the process within the stipulated deadline,” said a spokesperson.

A source at the centre, however, said the majority of the couples could not be reached. The centre is taking decisions on their behalf and destroying embryos stored for years, said the source.

In an earlier statement, the DGFC had said some patients had begun treatment with the centre, while some had aged and thus were not in interested in the treatment anymore, others decided that they had already completed their family.

Health officials said action would be taken against all erring centres. “We are starting inspections from July 6,” said Dr Amin Al Amiri, CEO of Medical Practice at the Ministry of Health.


Asma Ali Zain

Associated with KT for 15 years. Covers health issues, Pakistan community, human interest stories as well as general topics for daily news or features.

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