Sunday, October 10, 2010
From the NY Times, about Robert G. Edwards winning the Nobel Prize for Medicine on October 4, 2010:
He is, figuratively, the father of the technology that, literally, has allowed four million babies to be born over the past three decades.
Edwards was a pioneer in the field of in vitro fertilization, or I.V.F. It was his work that led to the birth of the world’s first “test-tube baby” in England on July 25, 1978. The breakthrough — which came after 20 years of research — not only made childbirth possible for traditional couples who otherwise could not have biological children; it also made biological parenthood possible for same-sex couples, single parents, parents worried about passing genetic conditions to their children, parents who want to guarantee a child of a certain sex and parents who are desperate to have a sibling who can donate cord blood and save the life of an existing child. It changed the expectations of women, in the sense that they could pursue careers and still have “plenty of time” to become pregnant. It created myriad possibilities for what we call a family — egg donors, womb surrogates and more.
Upending so many assumptions inevitably creates controversy. I.V.F. has been criticized as much as it has been heralded, and the Nobel committee noted that Edwards, who is now based at Cambridge University in England, “battled societal and establishment resistance to his development of the in vitro fertilization procedure.” By increasing the likelihood of multiple births, critics still ask, are we increasing the likelihood of premature, and, therefore, more medically fragile, children? Is the ability to read DNA in a petri dish (a test tube was never really involved in the process) creating a portal to “designer babies”? Has the availability of a “solution,” albeit an expensive one, led couples to spend money they really do not have in order to have a child?
Read more here.