Tuesday, February 17, 2009

FRESH HELL: The troubling economics of embryos

The McGill Tribune
As someone who's not particularly interested in reproduction . . . I just assumed that if you couldn't have kids, you didn't. Having spent hundreds of eight-dollar hours with other people's kids, being child-free doesn't strike me as a terrible fate. But for those infertile folk who feel otherwise, in vitro fertilization is available all over the U.S. and Canada for the low, low price of about $15,000.

For 15 grand, I can understand why patients would want the maximum bang for their buck. IVF involves mechanically implanting fertilized eggs in the mother-to-be's womb. If the embryos don't take, that's a bunch of hope and the price of a modest car down the drain. However, the recent birth of octuplets to an unemployed Californian woman has me (and the rest of the world) wondering whether cost-benefit analyses should enter into the decision to start a family. . . .While I do believe that a woman, and not the state, should control the number, spacing, and upbringing of her children, that isn't a free license to make irresponsible choices. Raising children is expensive, even if you don't use IVF to conceive them. It's irresponsible to have a child if you're unemployed, especially if you're paying scientists to make it happen, and you already have six kids and no job. That shows a lack of respect for the children being brought into the world, and a lack of foresight on the parent's part. It's not entirely the mother's fault, though.

It was irresponsible for a doctor to condone the implantation of a whopping six embryos instead of the normal two or three. The logic behind this decision is both economic and ethical: the chances of a successful pregnancy are higher with more embryos. Also, without getting into an abortion debate, the embryos belong to the people whose sperm and egg produced them, and can be used however these progenitors see fit.

The decisions of the doctor and the mother were both flawed, but the root problem here is thinking of IVF as something other than the creation of a life. Treating IVF as an industry alters a patient's expectations, and changes her from a mother to a consumer of services. IVF shouldn't be about getting your money's worth-the goal, as with any pregnancy, is a single child.
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