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No laboratory in PH is allowed to destroy excess embryos

/ 05:10 AM March 15, 2019

Agustin Fernando B. Pablo in his letter, “Discarding ‘excess’ human embryos violates Constitution” (3/1/19) ,  is correct that there are in vitro laboratories in the country where in vitro fertilization (IVF) and egg freezing procedures are done as part of ART (assisted reproductive technology). ART is an expertise that is part of the high-quality healthcare available in highly civilized countries inclusive of the Philippines, thus making our country at par with global standards of healthcare.

Pablo is, however, incorrect in implying that, in the Philippines, residual embryos are discarded; this is not done in the country. I am positively sure, because as chair of the Philippine Medical Association’s (PMA) commission on ethics and chair of the Philippine Society of Reproductive Medicine’s (PSRM) committee on ethics, I and the members of the  commission are strict in imposing the rule that medical practitioners, members or not of the PMA, native or foreigner, should comply with the Code of Ethics of the medical profession and the constitutional provision mandating that since life begins at fertilization, protection of life should commence at that stage.

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For patients with difficulty in getting pregnant due to natural or acquired conditions, science has unveiled technology useful in addressing their problems successfully through ART.  Before the procedures are initiated, patients are briefed with all the necessary information they need to be able to understand the methods and procedure, the safety, risks, success or failure factors, and even the financial support necessary to carry out the medical and surgical steps needed. The doctors also explain in detail what different moral and ethical concerns may be involved.

The patients only make their own decisions after these discussions, resulting in    informed consent. After successful embryo transfers have resulted in normal pregnancies, extra embryos or ova are safely preserved for future use by the natural parents, or donated to prospective patients. But they are never destroyed in the Philippines. In other countries, there is legislation governing the method of disposal. In England, there were reports of labs allowed to burn excess embryos after five years. In the Philippines, careful calculations are employed to produce only a limited number of embryos as agreed upon by the patients, since preserving them entails lab fees until they are implanted again—but never destroyed.

The IVF laboratories in the Philippines are owned and operated by Filipino medical practitioners and scientists. A couple are foreign-owned. Under strict legal and ethical regulations, no laboratory is allowed to destroy excess embryos.

ART procedures and treatments are practiced only by members of the PSRM, where I and many others have been past presidents. The PSRM is recognized internationally and is affiliated with international fertility studies. High ethical standards are observed by its members, and I monitor their compliance with the Code of Ethics of the medical profession and those of the PSRM.

Hopefully, this letter will help redress the  incorrect view propagated  by a nonmember of the medical profession.

SANTIAGO A. DEL ROSARIO, MD, former president, Philippine Medical Association

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