THE GUARDIAN CONSCIENCE, NURTURED BY TRUTH LAGOS, NIGERIA. Friday, January 24 2003
Assisted conception: Honour to whom it is due By Oladapo Ashiru and Osato Giwa-Osagie
IT has become necessary for us to respond to The Guardian newspaper publication of January 17, 2003. While we join others in congratulating the Roding Centre for their success, it is pertinent to say that your allusion to the fact that the first documented IVF delivery was in 1998 is not only UNTRUE but also equally most ungenerous of your newspaper. It is on record that the first documented live delivery of a baby by IVF-ET (in-vitro fertilisation and embryo transfer-test tube baby) in Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Nigeria was in 1989. It is also on record that Professor Oladapo Ashiru and Professor Osato Giwa-Osagie carried out the procedure in LUTH. Indeed your health correspondent at that time Mr. Onajomo Orere covered the story and published it in your same The Guardian newspaper in 1989, with the picture of baby and mother. Even at that time when IVF was still relatively alien to Nigerians. The doctors, nurses, LUTH staff who assisted us are all alive today.
More importantly for the purpose of completeness, the following facts and records on IVF must be highlighted and correctly:
The first documented case of experimental in-vitro fertilisation in
Nigeria was in 1983 by Ashiru and Abisogun
The first documented case of HUMAN in-vitro fertilisation in
Nigeria was in 1984 by Ashiru, Giwa-Osagie and Abisogun.
The first documented delivery of live baby from IVF-ET conception was in 1989 by Giwa-Osagie and Ashiru.
Between 1989 and 1994 we were able to treat several cases of
infertility and with the technique of IVF-ET from LagosUniversity Teaching Hospital Modular Theatre. The embryology laboratory moved from Anatomy department of the College of Medicine to the Modular Theatre. Professor Ashiru and Professor Giwa-Osagie manned the entire IVF programme. Resident doctors and postgraduate doctors assisted them. No expatriates. It was purely Nigerian effort.
These reports were documented, published, and presented at several national and international journals, conferences, and peer review seminars. Indeed our work won the gold medal award by the Anatomical Society of Great Britain in 1984 for outstanding research. There were visitations to our centre by the then Minister of Health Dr. Emmanuel Nsan in 1985, and he commended our efforts. The Federal Government raised a panel in 1985 led by the late Prof. Adesanya Ige Grillo, they saw us carry out the IVF-ET procedure from beginning to the end and commended our work. The main reason was: this was at a time when IVF had not started in several European countries and really not more than a dozen IVF groups existed worldwide. At that time, only LUTH, Lagos and South Africa had succeeded in IVF. St. Nicholas Hospital Lagos succeeded with the GIFT technique. All the above observations were well covered in several Nigerian newspapers, local and international magazines and bulletins. Your very newspaper The Guardian is no exception.
In 1994 Professor Ashiru went on sabbatical leave and then in 1996 on leave of absence, to start a new University-based IVF programme for the University of Illinois at Chicago. That was when the LUTH programme stopped. However, Giwa-Osagie and Ashiru had already established the fact that the procedure is very possible and doable in Nigeria. Between 1994 and now IVF programme moved from the LUTH to the private clinics. There have since been several reports of deliveries following IVF by many of the clinics. In Lagos alone there are now four IVF clinics. Unlike 10 years ago when it had to be verified especially coming from a University environment most of the reports are not verified but accepted on their face value, even though many of such reports have been from artificial insemination ONLY. This is the situation since it is no longer history. For instance any report about human cloning today would require and demand immediate verification.
Finally, it is important to underscore the differences in the IVF reports being made across the country, which responsible and good journalism must recognise. There are IVF programmes in Nigeria that are manned by expatriates that come in and out of the country periodically; and, there are those that are manned by Nigerians primarily. Although they all achieve the same objectives and are all commendable, a distinction must be very clear in our minds and our journalists for the purpose of national heritage. It is like the Nigerian Airways with Nigerian pilots or the Nigerian Airways with expatriate pilots. One indicates a complete mastery, modification and development of technology while the latter does not. It goes without saying that the pioneering efforts of ours were very difficult and yet we succeeded. People should desist from attempting to re-write history.
Once again, we congratulate the new arrival into the IVF club for a job well done, but would still like to emphasise that history is only useful when it is presented in full unbiased form. It is greatness that recognises the pioneering efforts of fore-runners in the field who were there before so that they too would be remembered. Just as we continue to give recognition to the pioneering efforts of Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards of Oldham and Cambridge in 1976 (first human IVF) and in 1978 (first live baby from IVF); Ashiru and Giwa-Osagie need their pride of place in the history of assisted reproductive technology in Nigeria for their pioneering work in 1984 (first human IVF) and in 1989 (first live baby from IVF).
Ashiru and Giwa-Osagie are Professors of Medicine.