Health authorities in the capital are planning to intensify their supervision of local assisted reproductive technology clinics in a bid to eliminate illegal sperm trading and other abuses and to better safeguard patients' rights.
On Sunday, the Beijing health inspection authority will kick off nine days of inspections for providers of reproductive services. The main target of the supervision will be nine prominent local clinics, each of which was licensed by the Ministry of Health, according to the Beijing News.
Institutions found to have dealt in illegal sperm, offered services beyond what they were authorized to do, or enabled surrogacy - an arrangement in which a woman carries a child for another person or couple - will face harsh penalties or be forced to shut down, it said.
China has strict rules governing what reproductive clinics are allowed to do. Only institutions authorized by the Ministry of Health, for instance, can practice in-vitro fertilization.
But the government also recognizes a strong need exists for such services. Since 2001, China has opened 10 State-owned sperm banks, which receive sperm donations for clinical uses and are licensed by the Ministry of Health.
"Reproductive clinics should strictly abide by laws and regulations to ensure quality service," said Chen Zhenwen, director of Beijing's only legal sperm bank, which is affiliated with the National Population and Family Planning Commission.
Chen encouraged reproductive clinics and the infertile to seek help from legal sperm banks.
"Because of the substandard screening (of illegal sperm), those who get sperm from illegal providers have a high risk of contracting diseases borne by body fluids, like sexually transmitted diseases," he said Tuesday.
China, like many countries, has seen a rise in the infertility of its population in recent years. Some regional surveys show that about 10 percent of local couples are unable to conceive a child within a year's time, said Zhou Canquan, director of the department of obstetrics and gynecology under the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou-based Sun Yat-sen University.
He said the figure was 3 percent in the early 1980s.
Zhou said the blame for the higher infertility rate rests in heavy workloads, stress and pollution.
At least 10 million Chinese couples cannot conceive a baby without the aid of technology, he said.
He recommended that they go to one of the nearly 200 authorized reproductive clinics in China, which, he conceded, are still too few in number to fully meet demands.
If couples cannot get help through legitimate channels, or simply want to avoid waiting in long lines, they sometimes feel justified in turning to illegal clinics, according to Wang Li'na, a leading expert with the reproduction center of the Peking University Third Hospital. But by doing so, they put themselves at a greater risk of disappointment, she said.
"The success rates there will be far lower than the average of 40 percent at legal ones," Wang said.
Zhang Xuehong, director of the reproductive medical research center at the First Affiliated Hospital of Lanzhou University, said one problem is that no common standards exist to guide the supervision and inspection of reproductive clinics throughout the country. More central control would lead to better results, she said.
"Providers used to face stricter supervision directly from the Ministry of Health," Zhang said. "Then in 2007, local health departments took over the responsibility of conducting biennial inspections."
（中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑）
About the broadcaster:
Nelly Min is an editor at China Daily with more than 10 years of experience as a newspaper editor and photographer. She has worked at major newspapers in the U.S., including the Los Angeles Times and the Detroit Free Press. She is also fluent in Korean.