Bills seek to regulate in vitro fertilization

Politicians in three states propose legislation to increase scrutiny of fertility clinics.

By Kevin B. O’Reilly — Posted March 23, 2009

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State legislators have reacted to the furor over the January births of octuplets conceived through in vitro fertilization by drafting bills to more closely regulate artificial reproductive technology.

The most aggressive bill, filed by Georgia Sen. Ralph Hudgens, would restrict to two the number of embryos a doctor could transfer during any IVF cycle in women younger than 40. The measure limits women 40 or older to three embryos. Octuplet mother Nadya Suleman, 33, told NBC's Today that her physician transferred six embryos and two split.

The Georgia bill's limits are stricter than those in the American Society for Reproductive Medicine guidelines, which say it is OK for up to five embryos to be transferred in women age 40 or older. For women younger than 40, the ASRM says one to three embryos may be transferred, depending on age and other factors.

The bill in Georgia "seeks to substitute the judgment of politicians for that of physicians and their patients," ASRM President R. Dale McClure, MD, said in a statement.

After a March 4 committee hearing, the bill was referred to a subcommittee for review.

The American Medical Association has referred comments on the octuplets controversy and IVF regulation to ASRM, which is represented in the AMA's House of Delegates.

Fertility specialists were more receptive to a Missouri bill, proposed by Rep. Robert Schaaf, MD. The proposal says doctors should not exceed the ASRM's embryo-transfer guidelines, which allow physicians flexibility based on circumstances such as a physician's experience with new techniques and the quality of the embryos. Dr. Schaaf said he is not worried his bill would give physicians too much wiggle room when deciding how many embryos to transfer.

In his statement, Dr. McClure said the Missouri approach "makes a great deal of sense, and we urge other states to adopt it."

Meanwhile, California Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod proposed a bill to empower the state's medical board to investigate, accredit and set standards for physician-owned fertility clinics.

Under state law, doctor-owned clinics cannot be regulated by the state's health department, a McLeod aide said. There had been no action on the bill through mid-March.

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External links

"Guidelines on number of embryos transferred," the Practice Committee of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology and the Practice Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Fertility and Sterility, November 2008 (link)

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