In the United States, we're relieved to be free of a strong government hand in private affairs like choosing to use reproductive medicine. Occasionally, though, my inbox is filled with rather frantic "Did you see this, Dr. Kristiansen?!" emails bearing news stories that remind us of why some regulations are necessary.
One such story -- about accusations of stolen sperm and unwanted fatherhood -- is coming out of Houston right now.
A young man is taking a Houston area fertility center to court, saying they never actually had his consent to use his semen for IVF that eventually impregnated a former girlfriend. This news video on Click2Houston.com has interviews of both the man -- now the father of twins -- and a representative of the fertility center.
Stories like this are fortunately rare, but they still play on the fears of fertility patients. It's understandable -- not all fertility specialists use their own labs. In fact, Houston Fertility Center's own in-house, state-of-the-art laboratory has provided embryology and related services for physicians from other clinics for years. Being able to rely on my own lab provides me and my staff with an extra layer of confidence in the fertility services we provide to patients.
While things in general are far more easy-going in the U.S. than in other countries, reputable fertility centers honor both the requirements and recommendations of existing regulatory bodies. This young man's experience clearly demonstrates one reason -- no one should be cornered into parenthood.
Rules about patient consent and the use of tissue (which includes sperm and eggs) can add a layer of cumbersome bureacracy to the IVF process. Now and then, a patient will complain, "But Dr. Kristiansen, some of these requirements seem over the top and unnecessary!" My response? I am grateful to have my own laboratory serving Houston Fertility Center, and for staff who are vigilant in maintaining compliance with regulations for the benefit and well-being of everyone involved.