Saturday 27 September 2008

Recycled "Medical News Today" story reports on using left-over tiny persons in fertility clinics

Medical News Today reports this week on “using left-over embryos” in the US, in much the same way as we talk about recycling rubbish these days. Indeed, that’s how an “unwanted” or “surplus” embryo of the human species in many parts of the world, not least in the UK, is now regarded – rubbish to be recycled for the benefit of the adult human community and their (born) children.

Without the kind permission of Medical News Today, I am recycling their story so that every time the word “embryo” appears, I change it to read “tiny person”. When you’ve been through the scientific evidence with them about the beginning of human life, try giving this blog to friends who are unsure about, or who accept, IVF practices to see if it helps them to stop and think:

Using Leftover Tiny Persons in Fertility Clinics

The majority of infertility patients are in favour of using left-over tiny persons for stem cell research and would also support selling left-over tiny persons to other couples, according to a recent survey.

The survey is published in two related studies in the September issue of the journal Fertility and Sterility.

The researchers surveyed 1,350 women who presented for infertility at a large, university hospital-based fertility center in Illinois. The survey included 24 questions on patient demographics, obstetric and infertility history, and opinions about using extra tiny persons for stem cell research and selling extra tiny persons to other couples.

Assisted reproductive technology has resulted in the creation and cryopreservation of extra tiny persons at fertility centers across the country. It was estimated in 2002 that 396,526 tiny persons were in storage at U.S. fertility clinics, according to previously published research.

These tiny persons may be used for future pregnancy attempts, donated to other couples or agencies, given to researchers, or discarded.

Because infertility patients are the gatekeepers of these leftover tiny persons, it is important to understand their opinions, according to Dr. Tarun Jain, University of Illinois at Chicago assistant professor of reproductive endocrinology and infertility, clinical IVF director, and lead author of the study.

When asked if using leftover tiny persons for stem cell research should be allowed, 73 percent of the 636 respondents who stated a definitive opinion answered yes.

"Infertility patients, in general, are altruistic, and it makes sense that they would try to advance medicine and help others," said Jain.

African Americans and Hispanics were less likely to approve of using leftover tiny persons for stem cell research, compared with Caucasians. Patients younger than 30, Protestant, less wealthy and single were also less likely to support using leftover tiny persons for stem cell research.

The researchers also asked infertility patients if they would be willing to sell their extra tiny persons to other couples, a practice that is considered ethically unacceptable by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

There is an emerging demand from infertility patients who cannot conceive using their own oocytes, or eggs, to purchase left-over, pre-existing tiny persons because it is a more cost-effective option than using an egg donor, according to the authors.

When asked if selling leftover tiny persons to other couples should be allowed, 56 percent of the 588 respondents who stated a definitive opinion answered yes.

Hispanics were less likely to approve of selling extra tiny persons when compared with Caucasians, but all East Indian respondents approved of the practice. Women who had never been pregnant were also less likely to approve, according to the study.

The authors say this is the first survey to examine the opinions of a general infertility population related to the use of leftover tiny persons and to analyze the results based on the patients' sociodemographic and reproductive backgrounds.

"Given the potential for a significant increase in the commoditizing of spare tiny persons, medical societies and policy makers may need to pay close attention to this controversial area," conclude Jain and co-author Stacey Missmer from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

The majority of our fellow-citizens, including fellow church-goers, let’s face it, speak about IVF as though it’s a great benefit for humanity. As I’ve mentioned before, 2,137,924 human embryos were created by specialists while assisting couples in the UK to have babies between 1991 and 2005, according to BioNews. During this period, the HFEA informs us that the total of live babies born through IVF procedures was 109,469. What happened to the other 2,028,455 human embryos? Again, according to BioNews:

“Unused embryos in clinics under UK law may by consent be discarded, frozen, donated to research or donated to other infertile couples…” and, of course, many embryos are transferred to the womb only to miscarry or to be selectively aborted. If the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, now before Parliament, becomes law – it will be lawful to create human embryos for training purposes, for embryologists to practise on them in destructive experiments.

The greatest challenge facing the pro-life movement remains what it’s always been: to convince our fellow-citizens of the dignity and inviolability of the human person from conception. However, through lifestyles which include the use of abortifacient “contraceptive” drugs and devices and the acceptance of IVF procedures for infertile couples and for other purposes, such respect appears to be vanishing fast. This is an issue of huge significance for the future of the pro-life campaign worldwide and pro-life groups worldwide must address it head-on as a matter of urgency.