Assisted reproductive technology like in vitro fertilization has been on the rise as a method of human reproduction. In vitro fertilization is the process of fertilization where an egg is combined with sperm in vitro. The process involves monitoring and stimulating a woman’s ovulatory process, removing an ovum or ova from her ovaries and letting sperm fertilize them in a culture medium in a laboratory.
The innovation in pharmacy and technology has changed the way in which some persons have children in Cameroon today. The technology spans from fertility drugs, to intra-uterine insemination, to advent of in vitro fertilization and now intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). While these innovations in pharmaceutical technology have brought about a smile to the faces of some parents in Cameroon, they carry their own unique risks, from multiple births to low birth weight to severe birth defects. Irrespective of the dangers to in vitro fertilization technology in Cameroon, the fertility industry still continues to make millions in a year.
The reason for lack of accountability in the fertility industry is down to the absence of law and regulation in this sector.
The rise in the use of in vitro fertilization, intracytoplasmic and artificial reproductive technology raises important issues that require legal and policy reforms in Cameroon. The rise in these practices has outpaced the development of policy in this sector in Cameroon. The need for regulation and policy can be considered in the following aspects;
- Complications raised by multiples: Multiple births and their externalities to the Cameroon healthcare system are one of the consequences of assisted reproductive technology. There has been several schools of thought touching on this aspect. While a school of thought have called for increased regulation of ovulation-inducing fertility drugs, another school of thought has emphasized on the embryo-transfer limits in the provision of infertility care. Nonetheless, the true goal of any regulation in this aspect must be to mitigate the incentive drive which pushes clinics to produce pregnancies without consideration of the risks and cost involved.
- Counselling of Patients on ICSI procedures: ICSI procedures has transformed assisted reproduction by enabling men suffering from infertility to reproduce. However, this procedure has its downside when it comes to producing live births. Hence it is imperative that regulation exist obliging clinics to counsel patients of ICSI procedures. If not patients will misconceive ICSI’s popularity for its safety. The rise in the ICSI procedure raises the possibility that consumers may not currently be operating with full disclosure, hence the prevalence of inadequate informed consent.
Risk of Increased Regulation
Not all schools of thought agree that there should be increased regulation as concerns assisted reproductive technology. There has been the presumption that increased public oversight have failed to recognize eugenic implications on the need to protect children from their own existence. Hence as per this school of thought, there could be serious eugenic implications should there be increased regulation on conventional technologies like IVF and ICSI as an entire class of people may be relegated to continuous childlessness.