A Noble Nobel?

by The Center for Bioethics and Culture on October 5, 2010

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2010 has been awarded to Robert G. Edwards for the development of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Edwards is part of the famous Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards duo, who were partners in the lab for years, trying to fertilize a human egg and thus create an embryo outside of the body by means of IVF, which literally means “in glass.” Their efforts paid off and headlines were made when the first test-tube baby, Louise Brown, was born. That was 1978. Now some 30-plus years later, Edwards has won the Nobel Prize for breaking this glass ceiling and creating life in the lab. From the press release:

Robert Edwards is awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize for the development of human in vitro fertilization (IVF) therapy. His achievements have made it possible to treat infertility, a medical condition afflicting a large proportion of humanity including more than 10% of all couples worldwide.

Reality check: 70% of all IVF cycles fail. So Edwards’ accomplishment of helping 10% of the population 30% of the time is worthy of a Nobel Prize. In addition, the Nobel Prize has been awarded to someone whose research is not novel. Steptoe and Edwards’ research was built on the research of S. L. Shenk in the 1880s. The Nobel applauds and awards research that is by no means successful based on the failure rate. And it awards the man who started the largest social experiment of our day, which has led to surplus frozen embryos, designer babies, and post-menopausal women and same-sex couples building families.We at the CBC see no reason to celebrate the 2010 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Even the man himself published an article in 2007 saying that, based on the negative health risks of IVF, it was time for a “rethink.”

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