April 13, 2024

Canadian chaos over fertility regulation

Bureaucratic foot-dragging blamed

Outrage over OctoMum and her 14 IVF children has led to calls for tough regulation of fertility clinics. If only it were that simple. A revealing article in the Quebec newspaper Le Devoir suggests that government bureaucrats in Canada have worked so slowly that a 2004 law which was intended to rein in the clinics is all but a dead letter.

In 2004, the Canadian parliament passed its first law regulating the fertility industry. It took another three years to set up a regulatory agency, Assisted Human Reproduction Canada, and give it a C$12 million budget. And it took two more years before Assisted Canada organised an international conference – and it was closed to the public. So much time has passed that a five-yearly review of the legislation is due, even though almost nothing has been implemented.

Critics of the agency’s work – or lack of it — complained that the topic of the conference, reproductive tourism, undermined its raison d’être. Instead of discussing how to regulate Canadian IVF more effectively, it became a forum for complaining about the existence of restrictions. In fact, Le Devoir alleges, a thriving black market in sperm and ova exists in Canada, even though it has been banned by the legislation. Women are selling their eggs for $5-6,000. But no investigations have been done.

So, as it stands, Canadian IVF clinics work in a kind of Wild West environment. In 2006 the doctor who supervised the birth of Quebec’s first IVF baby, Raymond Lambert, told a newspaper that if that stricter standards were applied, a quarter of all fertility clinics would have to shut their doors. ~ Le Devoir, Jan 19