Two years after his death, Puja’s husband was born again – as their son. That’s how 32-year-old Puja, a nurse in a Kolkata hospital, describes the successful posthumous artificial insemination with husband’s sperm (technically called AIH), the first such procedure in India.
The couple, who fell in love and married, had started infertility treatment in 2003 and decided to have a child through in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).
As a part of the procedure, her husband Rajib’s sperm was preserved in a sperm bank by infertility expert Dr Baidyanath Chakrabarty. But tragedy struck before the treatment was successful — Rajib died in 2006 of food poisoning. “He ate stale crabmeat and collapsed overnight. My world came crashing down,” Puja recalled. “He had never been ill, he was so healthy. I was inconsolable, life seemed a terrible burden.”
Over the next two years, Puja went in to a shell, struggling to cope. It’s on one such day that she realised that Rajib’s sperm samples remained in the bank and that she could still have his child.
“I was flummoxed when she approached me requesting the use of his sperm for a pregnancy. Though I knew it was possible, I was unsure about its legal implications,” said Chakrabarty.
Consultations with lawyers followed. “I wanted to make sure that the child does not suffer in any way. He should have all legal rights as it would be a legitimate child of the couple,” Chakrabarty said.
The National Guidelines of Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART), which is being transformed into a Bill to be enacted to regulate IVF, clearly stated that a child born to a woman artificially inseminated with stored sperms of her deceased husband is legitimate. Satisfied, Chakrabarty decided to go ahead.
After almost two years of consultations and medical treatment, Puja conceived. She had a son three months ago. "I want to shout and tell the world that I have got back a reason to live, that my husband is back with me. My husband's family has been very supportive but they advised me not to tell the world. I don't want my child to be insulted in any way," she said. "After all, science may have progressed, but mentalities have not."
Radheshyam Sharma, deputy director of the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), which prepared the Bill, said it was the first recorded case of posthumous AIH in the country. "There is no record of AIH with ICMR," said Sharma who heads the ART division. "But it is perfectly legitimate."