Using IVF to Delay Parenthood

by The Center for Bioethics and Culture on July 6, 2010

By Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC

Those who objected to IVF (before my time) on the basis that the technology would not be limited to helping infertile, married couples conceive, were laughed off as scare mongers.

My how times have changed. We now have a story of fertile couples using IVF to make embryos for deep freeze because they don’t want to have children–yet–but are worried if they wait, they won’t be able to when they are ready. From the a first person account that reads like a fertility clinic sales brochure:

Then we found another option [than not having children]: a way to postpone parenthood without risking the higher miscarriage and genetic disorder rates that occur in babies conceived from parents older than 35. We did this by undergoing in vitro fertilization and freezing our embryos. Most couples resort to in vitro only after years of trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant, a process I think of as Desperation IVF. Instead, we chose to preserve the advantage of our current youth and fertility. I call it Preservation IVF.

They couldn’t afford children but could afford to undergo IVF?

The couple made five embryos and leave open the option of having children the usual way. And then what? If there are some that are no longer needed, toss their “baby blastocysts” in the medical waste bag? Donate them for research? Leave them in limbo?

The article said some of these costs could be paid by health insurance. They certainly should not be if the IVF isn’t to treat infertility but, as here, to faclilitate lifestyle choices.

And that is the bigger point. A lot of what medicine is about today is not health, but fulfillment of personal lifestyle desires. That’s a big deal to which I don’t think we have paid sufficient attention, which, I think, threatens to deprofessionalize medicine. And IVF has been leading the way, often today not about treating infertility at all, but rather, turning child bearing into just another consumer product.

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