Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Soapbox Time

WARNING: If you are Catholic, maybe skip this post. It's not nice to your peeps.

Catholic Bioethicist Discusses IVF Embryo Mix-Up:

[This is] in many ways just the latest absurd chapter in the wild west that is the unregulated world of IVF. *

It is tragic that this multi-billion dollar industry has been able to play on the emotions of thousands of vulnerable couples to make the very prospect of regulating this industry not only a cultural taboo but a potentially fatal political third rail for anyone in congress who would dare to take it on. **

"It not only perpetuates the emersion of thousands of embryonic human beings into the absurd fate of deep frozen suspension until their eventual destruction (only a fraction of embryos created ever make it to live birth), but it sets the stage for on-going and tragic ‘mistakes’ like the one made with the [recipient family]." ***

*FACT: IVF and all forms of approved ART are regulated by the FDA. The medications dispensed and procedures employed must be agency-approved, and laboratories must be certified in accordance with good clinical and laboratory practice regulations (in the code of federal regulations). And REs are guided by, and subject to, accepted medical standards of care in their practice (don't forget that licensed OBs have among the highest malpractice insurance rates, so sticking to the standards is wise). Unfortunate mistakes occur in medicine and pharmacy all the time. Patients are given drugs to which they are allergic, even though their allergies are scrawled across the top of their chart. Doctors' handwritten notes are mistaken for ten times the dose intended for short-acting meds. Chemo is given to a patient who was supposed to receive an antibiotic. I have personally witnessed all of these mishaps in a hospital setting, where nurses check and (by state law) double-check the patient's ID and doctor's orders. In the grand scheme of the universe, shit happens.  

**FACT: This is a very sad mistake, and it is not made better by proselytizing or judging. Who is playing on the emotions of vulnerable couples here? The medical professionals with the tools and support to help infertiles achieve pregnancy (if and when possible), or the man in the frock with the microphone looking to make an example of every sinner in his wake? You're rubbing salt in good people's wounds. This mix-up is a rare tragedy, and the media coverage will undoubtedly lead to at least some short-term increase in scrutiny (whether warranted or not). Look, sometimes bad things happen to good people. But, the exception to the rule does not the rule make. More regulation is not required in response to this exceedingly rare mistake. A kerfuffle ensued after Octomom made her disastrous debut, and life went back to normal because she is a sociomedical freak, as is her singular, unethical RE. So don't give me your papal mumbo-jumbo and "I told you so's." This medical technology serves an incredible purpose. I suppose it's just god's will that I can't get pregnant, right? How to put it politely...Fuck you.

***FACT: Absurd? How about an organization that demands verboten birth control in third-world countries with out-of-control population growth and rampant HIV, spread largely by poverty-induced prostitution and unwanted pregnancies? Is that absurd enough for you, friar? Because I actually think that a medical technology that allows me, a productive member of society who desires to raise a child, the means with which to do so when nature cannot, is far from absurd but rather (to co-opt your terms), miraculous. My vote goes to condoms for prostitutes and IVF for infertiles. Fair enough and everybody wins. So just stay behind your pulpit and get outta my vagina. Yours is a school of divinity, not a college of medicine.

OPINION: The wild west is a better description for the medical wasteland that these moral highgrounders would have us take: Can't get pregnant? Pray on it. Go to church. Eat a vitamin. JUST RELAX. Whatever. This is the reason why many of us still feel a twinge of discomfort discussing IVF at work, in public, etc....because misinformation fosters disbelief that it is a validated, safe practice no different than any other therapeutic medical intervention. Modern medicine has come a long way, baby, and if your man in the funny white hat and Prada shoes can't get with the program, tough tits -- stay out of mine.

P.S. NOT every sperm is sacred. Most of them are useless duds. Only my RE and embryologist can find the good ones. 


Simple said...

Amen sister!!!! I just can't wrap my head around the Catholic perspective despite having been raised in the religion, even attending Catholic school from K - 8 grade.. complete with nuns! They keep giving me reasons to denounce their religion.. ha! Thanks for your amazing, articulate post!!!!

hope4joy said...

I am a practicing Catholic but this post made me hang my head in shame. I often don't agree with the powers that be. I am with you on this one.

ASP said...

Amen. Hope that lil' embie of yours is attachin' and hatchin'!

Mrs. Hammer said...

If you would allow me to jump up on your soap box with you...

As a Christian (not Catholic) I have often been asked why we are doing IVF. I have been given dirty looks by people in my own church that we even dare go down this road. My response is this: God is the creator of life and He is allowing babies to come from IVF. He tells some couples IVF is for them and some that it's not. We got the green light. End of story.

To quote "It not only perpetuates the emersion of thousands of embryonic human beings into the absurd fate of deep frozen suspension until their eventual destruction (only a fraction of embryos created ever make it to live birth)..."

The family that the mix up happended to are people of faith and they choose IVF. Not only that but they shared that they are going to use every embryo that they have frozen. Where did he get their "eventual destruction" from? Because some people choose to destroy their embryos? This was not the case with this family and they were very open about that. What a crappy thing to say and to assume that every one of us who do IVF don't care about their snowbabies. Many of us don't even get the opportunity to freeze embryos.

And guess what pope-y, in a normal woman's life time who never undergoes IVF and has children naturally "only a fraction of embryos created ever make it to live birth." That's a normal fact of human reproduction!!! Just because it's also happening in a petri dish does not mean that it does not happen in the womb! Conceptions happen all the time but my fizzle out and never implant or end up being a 'late period.' Way to show the world, again, that you know nothing about human reproduction.