In Vitro Fantasies

by Christopher White, Ramsey Institute Project Director on February 20, 2014

Post image for <i>In Vitro</i> Fantasies

Yesterday the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology announced that IVF birth rates reached an all time high in 2012, accounting for 1.5% of all births in the United States. Incidentally, this news reached me just a few hours after I completed an interview with a woman who went down the path of several failed IVF cycles in desperate hopes for a child. “I didn’t realize I’d have to kill my children in hopes of getting children,” she lamented.

A provocative statement? You bet. But this is her reality, one probably shared by many others as they see each IVF cycle as creating a wanted child.

Not only are there major medical concerns being raised about IVF (see last month’s report by the British Medical Journal entitled “Are We Overusing IVF?”), and not only are failure rates astonishing (right around 70% in the United States and 77% worldwide!), but we also have the moral questions that most people ignore: namely, IVF requires the creation of multiple embryos outside the womb that are later transferred into the women’s uterus. Many of these transfers fail entirely, effectively resulting in the “death” of the embryo. Meanwhile, for the approximately 30% of pregnancies using IVF that do succeed—often because ‘donor’ eggs were used—there are often surplus embryos that were created but are later discarded, frozen, or used for research.

For the couples that so desperately seek a child of their own, does the wanted child in their arms after rounds of IVF cycles allow them to forget about their other children that were either lost in the process, remain frozen in the laboratory, or were simply donated to science for research? Should it? Or should those considering IVF more carefully weigh both the losses and gains of using this technology before they begin using it?

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