The 21st century has witnessed a lot of technological advancements and the medical field is not left out. Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) has emerged as one of the most widely used medical advancement. Although these technologies have no doubt been beneficial to families, they raise questions on the reproductive rights of parents and child. This paper seeks to analyze the medical advancements in reproductive technologies, the benefits, challenges and possible solutions to future controversies and disputes.
ART is a term used to describe collectively a number of noncoital methods of conception that are used to treat infertility with donor or nondonor eggs and sperm. In general, ART procedures involve surgically removing eggs from a woman’s ovaries, combining them with sperm in the laboratory, and returning them to the woman’s body or donating them to another woman. According to the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA), ART refers to treatments used to assist people in achieving a pregnancy. There are various types of ART treatments which include: Ovulation induction, artificial insemination, donor conception, in-vitro fertilization, gamete intrafallopian transfer, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, pre-implantation genetic testing and surrogacy. In each of the various types, there are typically 2 sets of parents: the donor parents and the commissioning parents, and in cases of surrogacy, the surrogate parents.
The benefit of ART treatments is that it has helped many people overcome various fertility issues. It can be used to maximise the chance of older patients conceiving and bearing children at old age and it has helped single-women and same-sex couples to become parents. It also helps the parents in the sex selection of their would-be baby through pre-implantation genetic screening/diagnosis and it is used to identify and avoid genetic disease and embryos carrying genetic issues, meaning that the couple are more likely to have a healthy baby.
However, there are challenges regarding the use of ART in reproduction, especially as it concerns the rights of parent and child under the Nigerian law. The Nigerian Constitution which provides for Citizenship does not define the key word “parent”. How does a child determine his or her citizenship where there are multiple parents contributing to the birth of the child? The situation is even more complicated where one of the parents is a foreigner, the dilemma is created as to which of the citizenships of the various parents the child acquires at birth. Also, under property law and the administration of estates, upon a person’s death, his or her estate goes to the child or children especially when the deceased dies intestate. The legal status of a child to an estate is closely linked to the person whom the law recognizes as the father or mother and if such a child is a product of ART, determining whose estate he is entitled to inherit may become a puzzle (would it be that of his commissioning parents or his biological parents?). The law doesn’t say. Lastly, under Nigerian law, marriage between persons of prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity is void. The dilemma then presents itself in future where there is a marriage between 2 children of different commissioning parents who share the same donor, biological or surrogate parents. The marriage becomes void ab initio, notwithstanding that both parties were unaware of the blood relationship before contracting the marriage.
The solution to the challenges highlighted above are (i) to create a donor registry where commissioning parents can trace the origin of donors or surrogate parents of their children and other children of such parents, and (ii) to amend our laws in Nigeria to adapt to changing realities.
© Chidinma Grace Nwokocha
 NCI Dictionary of genetic terms (https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/genetics-dictionary/def/assisted-reproductive-technology) accessed on 3 September 2019.
 Types of Assisted Reproductive Treatment (https://www.varta.org.au/information-support/assisted-reproductive-treatment/types-assisted-reproductive-treatment ) accessed on 3 September 2019.
 Create fertility – Advantages and Disadvantages of IVF (https://www.createfertility.co.uk/blog/the-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-ivf ) accessed on 3 September 2019.
 Quora (https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-benefits-of-assisted-reproductive-technology) assessed on 3 September 2019.
 Section 25 (1) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended 2011.
 Section 1 of the Administration of Estates Law CAP A5 Laws of Lagos State 2015.
 Sections 3 & 4 of the Matrimonial causes Act CAP M7 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2010.