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70s blues: Elderly couple’s in-vitro baby triggers ethical debate

health and fitness Updated: May 13, 2016 17:04 IST
Sanchita Sharma
Sanchita Sharma
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Mohinder Singh Gill and his wife Daljinder Kaur named their child Arman Singh.(HT Photo)

When 72-year-old Daljinder Kaur delivered a baby boy in Hisar last month after two years of fertility treatment, she inadvertently triggered a debate on the need to regulate assisted technologies such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Ironically, the Amritsar-based couple had the baby to inherit property worth nearly Rs 5 crore that was being denied to them by relatives. “My brothers were not agreeing to give me a share in the family property because I did not have a child,” said the child’s 79-year-old father, Mohinder Singh Gill.

There is no law against older couples using IVF treatment to conceive, but India’s National Guidelines for Accreditation, Supervision & Regulation of ART Clinics advise women over 50 and men over 55 against opting for the procedure. “As an established medical study, delivering a child when you are over the age of 45 is considered a high-risk pregnancy. Even in the absence of an enacted legislation on ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology), the national guidelines are ethically binding on ART clinics – as are the guidelines on adoption defining the criterion of age of the prospective parents, medical termination of pregnancy, and usual accepted standards of medical practice and code of conduct,” a statement from the Indian Society for Assisted Reproduction (ISAR) read.

Read: IVF helps 70-year-olds become first-time parents

“Donor eggs can be used to fertilise women at any age, and no medical expertise is needed as long as the subject is healthy. But as using assisted technology for reproduction in older people is not fair on either the parents or the child, the oldest I have done is 49 years,” said Dr Shivani Sachdev, director of SCI Healthcare and secretary of ISAR.

According to ministry of women and child development guidelines, the maximum composite age of parents who want to adopt should be between 90 and 110 years, depending on the age of the child meant to be adopted. A single adoptive parent cannot be over 55.

Kaur and Gill, however, remain oblivious to the ethical debate they triggered by opting for the IVF route 46 years after their marriage in 1970. “My wife and I wanted a child of our own, and my relatives’ taunts were making life impossible for us. It also led to several litigations over family land. We had not heard of IVF till my wife read about it in the paper three years ago. So we went ahead with the procedure,” said Gill.

The couple had earlier adopted a son, but he ran away soon after discovering his “true identity”. This strengthened Kaur’s resolve to have a child of her own.

But who will take care of the child, considering that the two are already in their twilight years? Kaur and Gill are not worried. “One is never too old to become a parent,” said Gill. “We will look after our baby till we are alive, and then there will be God.”