Reps, NMA, Others Move To Enact Law On Assisted Reproduction

By Gloria Essien, Abuja

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The Nigerian House of Representatives House Committee on Health Institutions has expressed its readiness and determination toward improving the health infrastructure and well-being of Nigerians across the country.

READ ALSO:NMA Urges Government to address Brain Drain and Insecurity

Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Amos Magaji who stated this in Abuja during the second day of the public hearing which attracted experts from various medical fields, expressed grave concerns over the failure of Federal Government towards the implementation of the National Health Act, 10 years after it was signed into law.

During the consideration of the motions, Hon. Magaji raised concern over the unabated appetite of Nigerians to access foreign health facility, despite the overwhelming manpower.

Hon. Magaji noted that most of the Medical Practitioners who attend to Nigerians seeking health facility in developed countries are those who left the country as a result of poor condition of service.

He reiterated the Committee’s determination towards reversing the ugly trend.

He explained that part of the mandates of the Committee was to identify the major obstacles hindering the Nigerian health institutions from providing the needed services to the citizens for proper implementation by the authorities concern.

Speaking during the hearing, President of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Professor Bala Audi expressed overwhelming support for the declaration of state of emergency in the health sector in view of the decapitating condition and poor renumeration.

He lamented that the poor state of some tertiary health institutions and remuneration contributed to the migration of many competent and qualified medical practitioners to foreign countries despite the huge funds invested in them by the government.

In his address, Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Professor Ali Pate who was represented by Permanent Secretary of Federal Ministry of Health, Mrs. Daju Kachallom disclosed that the Ministry has the development guideline for establishing and coordinating organ and tissue transportation services in Nigeria.

She argued that the regulation of consultants is paramount, however called on other regulatory bodies in Nigeria that have to do with the health sector to work with Federal Government to ensure that ethics are not compromised.

While noting that the Ministry is working with the Association of Fertility and Reproductive Health of Nigeria, she observed that: “our culture which is very sensitive might not permit us to have the register because it’s not everyone that will want to have the details of his medical history to the world.

“It’s not just the person who wants to have the child, there is Surrogate, there’s Donor and sometimes these things are shrouded in secrecy. And moreover too, if I may say, our freedom of information Act precludes medical information being given. So we have to be very careful in giving out any information.

“But as for Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, we are coming up with the policy at the end of the year. I’m sure the coordinating Minister will tell the whole world what we’ve done on that, but we are working on that.”

In his presentation, President of Association of Fertility and Reproductive Health of Nigeria, Professor Preye Fiebai disclosed that World Health Organization (WHO) has recognises infertility as a disease and not just an infirmity, and those who are affected have right to treatment.

He however noted that whoever is providing either donor eggs or donor sperms or embryos in that regard has to be protected.

He explained that the stakeholders had in 2023 made input into the bill on Assisted Reproductive Practice (ART) in Nigeria, organized by the Senate,

“We have been advocating for a law since 2005 and over the years it’s become difficult to enact that law. However, ART is evolving and across the world there have been regulations that instruct us on how to carry out the process in civilized climes. In Nigeria interesting, we are one of the foremost providers of assisted in Africa.”

According to him, statistics released during a meeting held in Nairobi recently showed that ART samples carried in Egypt was projected to provide 60 to 90,000 ART cycles per annum but Nigeria interestingly with our population of over 200 million was projected to provide between 4 to 5,000 cycles per annum.

He maintained that Nigeria has over 200 ART providers compared to about 20 Providers in Egypt, adding that most of what is carried out in Nigeria is not reported and at the end of the day, the industry, the population and everyone is not informed of what is going on here.

“I dare say that Nigeria is the biggest provider of Assisted Reproductive Technology in the whole of Africa. South Africa has been established and outside Doctors we have programmes that treat Embryology and Nurses. But we are also being lacking in the such provision in Nigeria.”

While noting that Nigeria has a lot of manpower required, he however noted that Nigeria needs to harmonise all that is being done across the country.

He assured that the Association is working with Federal Ministry of Health to develop appropriate legislation that would guide the Practitioners in providing the service in Nigeria,adding that some states have rolled out some regulations in Lagos State on how to practice ART in the country.

He maintained that the country has the framework, manpower, infrastructure to explore the abounding opportunities in ART, adding that the Association recognizes the intricacies bothering on religion, culture and other factors.

He assured that those issues of concerns have been taking into consideration as the HOR will ensure that in the nearest future the ART practice will be appropriately regulated in the country.

Professor Preye noted that the legislation has to do with protection of the individual, the patient while ART encompasses a whole lot beyond one individual, as it protects the third party ART that involves surrogate, donors of sperm, among others.

While acknowledging that there would be malpractices across board, he expressed optimism that at the end of the day, the proposed legislation will capture all the issues relating to individuals.

On his part, President, Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists, Dr. Casmir Ifeanyi affirmed that there is need to enact a law that will protect Nigerians seeking ART intervention because the abuse is preponderant, including the recruitment of donors in very unethical manner that ens up very many of them causing irreversible damage in the cause of life.

According to him “some of them who were used to get another person fertile end up becoming impotent because we do not have proper law in place. So, the issue of egg donation, sperm donation require serious legislation. We have provision in the National Health Act that spoke copiously about donation of tissue and blood and criminalize use of such for merchandize or commercial purpose.

“But here in Nigeria, particularly Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, young girls under 19 are recruited, given 120,000 hyper-stimulated, eggs harvested and they are left in the lodge to languish! The National Assembly must rise up to protect Nigerians in this regard.

Dr Casmir particularly urged Nigeria place ban on racketeering, as well as emulate Tunisia and most parts of the world, by placing a ban on stimulation of people and collection of money or giving of eggs for commercial purposes.

He also harped on the need to ensure proper accreditation of Practitioners, adding that globally every service being provided is accredited to a known standard.

President, Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists used the forum to call for the establishment of Egg Register,

According to Dr Casmir “discrimination against young people to produce eggs is no longer in vogue, once couples who challenges come and they are hyper-stimulated are able to throw more eggs which can be harvested, kept in the bank and shared with third parties, sparing third parties agony and of course, protecting our younger generation.”

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