In most instances, the practice of assisted reproductive technologies comes before the legal regulations are enshrined, and Cambodia is no exception.
The country has its first IVF clinic, as well as several private and public fertility counselors, but no corresponding laws.
“There’s no national protocol or standard for infertility treatment,” said Dr Ping Chutema, director of clinical services at the Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia. “Clinics still have to follow a protocol, either an international and/or an internal framework.”
In the absence of national legislation, health professionals are challenged to implement self-regulation and coordinate amongst themselves to provide safe and effective care, Chutema said.
So far at the Fertility Clinic Cambodia, self-regulation has meant introducing the treatment to married heterosexual couples only, and not to single women or homosexual couples who would need sperm or egg donation.
In Vietnam, artificial insemination practices began in public hospitals in the late 1990s, but the Law on Childbirth By Scientific Methods wasn’t implemented until 2003. The regulations saw new restrictions placed on the industry, including a prohibition on treatment for women over 45 and a ban on surrogate mothers, which affected gay couples’ access to the technology.
Thailand lacks explicit laws on reproductive technologies and surrogacy, but has had a draft law regulating the latter since 2004 that the country’s Ministry of Health announced it intends to put into effect by the end of this year.
“What I’m hoping for in the future is that the Cambodian people will have an input into the framework as it evolves in this country and that will guide us,” said Dr Neil Stoddart, an embryologist and the lab director at the Fertility Clinic Cambodia. “We don’t want to be an [assisted reproductive technologies] centre in the middle of Phnom Penh that does not have the confidence of the people. We want to follow the guiding cultural norms of Cambodia.”