Inspection Underway On Reported Import Of Human Sperm: Lao Officials

Source: Vientiane Times

Health officials are investigating a report that human sperm has been imported into Laos, a senior government official has said.
Lao law prohibits the trade of human organs including blood and sperm, Director General of Health Care Department under the Ministry of Health Associated Professor Dr Chanphomma Vongsamphan told Vientiane Times yesterday.

Thai media reported on Saturday that a man attempting to smuggle what is believed to be human sperm out of Thailand to another fertility clinic in neighbouring Laos was arrested recently.

Mr Nithinon Srithaniyanun, the courier, told Thai authorities that he had picked up sperm from four clinics in Bangkok for delivery to another fertility clinic in the Lao capital of Vientiane, Thailand’s The Nation reported, citing the authorities in charge.

Mr Nithinon was earlier arrested by authorities at the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge checkpoint in the northeastern Thai province of Nong Khai where he attempted to smuggle six tubes of what is believed to be human sperm stored in a frozen nitrogen tank into Laos.

Dr Chanphomma said the Health Minister Associate Professor Dr Bounkong Syhavong has told officials in charge to inspect the report.
“We have inquired into a consultant of the clinic in question. The consultant denied any involvement by the clinic in illegal action,” he said.

Dr Chanphomma stated that further investigation is being carried out to verify the issue. He stated that there is no a clinic in Laos that is licenced to offer surrogacy services. But many clinics are licenced to offer healthcare services including offering consultations on how couples should prepare themselves and their health as they plan to have a baby.

The Nation reported that the Thai health officials on Friday inspected one of the cited Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) clinics in Bangkok. Deputy director-general of the Health Service Support Department of Thailand Dr Thongchai Keeratihuttayakorn told the Thai media that the Thai fertility clinic had denied any connection with the courier.

The clinic had also given a copy of the clinic’s complaint filed with police against Nithinon to public health authorities. The clinic admitted the human sperm belonged to two of its clients from China and Vietnam who had authorised a person to pick up the sperm but the clinic has no knowledge of the courier and his delivery service, it reported.

Head of Superior ART Centre, Mr Sarayuth Assamakorn said the Chinese and Vietnamese clients had properly obtained the sperm from the centre on April 17 and April 19 respectively by authorising a person to do so.

The foreign clients said they wanted to take the sperm to be used at another fertility clinic, which is the patients’ right, but they were informed in advance that taking sperm out of the country is not legal, Mr Sarayuth told the media.

Mr Thongchai said the courier is guilty under Thai law if the contents inside the frozen nitrogen tank are confirmed to be either sperm, eggs and/or embryos. Second, authorities will find out if there is an agency or intermediary to carry out transactions for these contents and, third, authorities will establish if any clinic is involved in these activities and transactions, and if they are they will be prosecuted under Thai law.

President of Medical Council of Thailand Professor Dr Prasit Wattanapa said if the contents are confirmed to be embryos, doctors who were involved would be guilty under Thai law and their licences could be suspended.

According to the Thai law on assisted reproduction technology, sperm, eggs, and embryos cannot be traded, while violators and smugglers are subject to fines and imprisonment of up to 10 years, The Nation reported.

Thai customs officials said Nithinon had travelled from Thailand to Laos 20 times during July last year and February this year. In addition, he also travelled to Cambodia 24 times from September last year to April this year.