In I wish I was making this up news, the New York Times ran an article about a sperm donor that is the biological father for potentially more than 150 people.
I have about 150 snarky remarks to make about that, but I’d like to think I could be mature enough to look at this objectively as a pretty thorny ethical issue. And I sort of can.
I kind of wish they’d have actually interviewed some of the offspring, but the article never goes there. It could have been about a 2500 word piece that got crammed into 700 words or so, and thus it just barely scratches the surface of the nuttiness this issue can spiral into.
But man, 150 kids. That guy wasn’t Catholic, I’ll tell you that much.
This isn’t a rant, nor is it going to be eloquent. I’m just going to comment, and perhaps you might too.
Here’s the deal: I’m sure this has been kicked around plenty of times on the moral-ethical debate front, but I’m going to go ahead and say that I think 72 years old is too old to have a baby.
“Five years ago, Romania’s Adriana Iliescu became the oldest mother in the world. Then she was sixty-six years. Today, at the age of seventy two years she again wants to repeat the experience of 2005 i.e. to… get pregnant (using)… in-vitro fertilization (IVF), reports British paper ‘The Mail’ on Sunday about the woman who is well aware of her age and does not hide the fact that ‘once again she is trying not to look in the mirror.’”
First thing you’ll notice if you read the article? It appears to be written by a 9 year old aspiring journalist. Get an editor!
Second thing you’ll notice is the picture of the elderly woman smooching a baby. Which, is cute and all. But c’mon. That woman is going to have a baby?
I have to admit I feel like a real asshole for saying it is unequivocally creepy that a 72 year old become pregnant. After all, I think Tony Randall was 79 when he fathered his last child – and if that’s ok with society, well then why the hell not have a 72 year old mommy?
Maybe it’s because I’m a guy (quick check…yep, I am) and I held my mother on such a pedestal. When I lost her last year, I was devastated. How old was she, you ask? 73.
Am I jumping to conclusions thinking that it’s not her biological clock that this woman needs to think about – it’s just her TICKING CLOCK? Birthing children knowing you’re going to be damned lucky to see their 8th birthday just feels irresponsible. I can hear many of you saying that we’re all going to die and none of us can predict when we’re going to go, yeah, yeah, yeah…
But let’s be practical. A 35 year old woman statistically has many years left in front of her provided she’s not addicted to heroin and enjoys bus-dodging as general sport. A 72 year old woman, statistically speaking, has ONE YEAR, on average, to live. Yes, the average life expectancy of a Romanian is 73 years of age.
Is it fair to the kid? I think the answer has to be no.
But can we legislate an appropriate age for assisted reproductive technology? I think the answer also has to be no.
The study by Auckland University’s Liggins Institute found IVF children conceived from fresh, rather than frozen, embryos were about 2.6 centimetres (1.02 inches) taller than non-IVF children by the age of six.
The research, which examined about 200 children, found the height difference was statistically significant, even after adjusting for variables such as the parents’ height.
It will be interesting to see what longitudinal studies suggest and if this height differential continues throughout adulthood. After all, this study did use just 200 individuals as their sample, and the findings seem a tad spurious to this social science minded fellow. Although they did prove to be statistically significant, it doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be explained away by other factors.
Give me 20,000 people in a sample and include age brackets. If the findings are consistent, well, wow – North Carolina hoops will have a whole new way of recruiting!
Fantastic conversation between the venerable Robert Siegel and Jeffery Kahn, who is director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota Medical School on just a few of the issues related to the ethics of IVF. One particular piece of their conversation struck me as particularly interesting (excerpted from NPR’s Website)
“SIEGEL: What about the ethical and moral issues for doctors? That is, should they facilitate multiple births for a woman who has no apparent means of support of sextuplets or octuplets? Or is it the doctor’s job to honor the patient’s wishes and let the chips fall where they may?
Dr. KAHN: Well, it may be even a more fundamental conflict than that, in that we think about the right to have children as a basic fundamental liberty that we recognize. And so, when an individual says I’d like to have children, we don’t usually ask why or how many or what techniques do you propose to use.
And so we have the technology that allows us to create these high multiple birth pregnancies bumping up against what we think of as a quite fundamental liberty. And we really haven’t wrestled that to the ground either. And that’s an issue that started in 1978, and then certainly persists today.”
This left me wondering whether I believe having children is a basic fundamental liberty. I believe it’s far more dangerous to say that it’s NOT a fundamental liberty, but many of the folks believing IVF is morally wrong frequently point to the notion that God chooses the children, not the parent – the children do not belong to us, they belong to God. In this sense, liberty, relative to child rearing, is rather transient.