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Monday, August 30, 2010

Infertility Often Passed to IVF Babies

A technique used in half of American IVF births causes many infertile fathers to pass on their infertility to their sons - sometimes along with other genetic defects, according to an article in the Boston Globe.

A million babies around the globe have been born with ICSI. But hundreds, and perhaps thousands of the boys will be born infertile.

"Thanks to IVF and ICSI many babies have been born who wouldn't have otherwise existed, and this has brought happiness to countless families. But unlike any other kind of medical intervention, which can be tested for safety and efficacy on the population it will affect, fertility techniques by design can't be tested on the resulting babies until after they are born. To put it bluntly, we've chosen as a society to carry out a big safety experiment on the first generation of children we've created with these methods."

US medical guidelines urge doctors to suggest that men with very low sperm counts be offered genetic tests before ICSI. But very often these guidelines are not followed. And many infertile men do not want to be tested, anyway.

What are the ethics of this, asks Sylvia Pagán Westphal.

"Infertility is, at the very least, a medical condition that causes significant emotional distress and, when fertility treatments are sought, puts the woman, and often her male partner, through medical procedures that are not without risk. Is it ethical to knowingly pass down this condition to a child? Does a couple's right to reproduce trump that of their future children?" ~ Boston Globe, Aug 8

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