Blunders Won't Stop the Great March of IVF

The Evening Standard (London, England), June 16, 2009 | Go to article overview

Blunders Won't Stop the Great March of IVF


Byline: Dr Max Pemberton

"SHE'S our little miracle," said Ruth looking at the toddler destroying a pot of marigolds. Listening to her story of how she and her partner tried unsuccessfully for six years to have a child, the strain it put on their relationship, the feelings of failure and disappointment, it was hard not to be moved. Eventually, they tried a third and final cycle of IVF treatment and, against the odds, conceived.

We were at the christening of my new godson, Harry, and there, playing in the garden, were eight children, four of whom had been conceived using IVF. Each parent told similar stories of the anguish they had felt at the prospect of being childless. Sitting out in the sun, the children playing on the lawn, the parents swapped tales of how their fertility had taken over their lives, dictated everything from moving house to when they went on holiday. It was obvious those who had conceived naturally could not comprehend what the others had gone through.

A generation ago, infertility was a lifelong sentence. Medicine could offer no help and couples had to choose between adoption or remaining childless. But with the advent of IVF, a whole industry has developed to promote the idea that having a child is a right, not a biological privilege. Any challenge to this is controversial, so sensitive is the subject matter and so strong the sense of entitlement.

But while IVF specialists champion the incredible advances that have been made in recent years in their field, many other doctors are more reticent about its widespread use. Those such as neonatologists, paediatricians, neurologists and cardiologists witness first-hand the limitations of IVF and the increased risk that children conceived in this way have of severe, sometimes lifelong, complications.

Those who work in services where funding is tight, such as Alzheimer's care, cancer services and geriatrics and who face having to make clinical decisions based on cost, rather than medical need, question funding such procedures on the NHS when so many medications or treatments which could have a dramatic effect on people's lives are denied because the money is not available. …

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Blunders Won't Stop the Great March of IVF
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