Monday, December 3, 2012

A baby or your money back?!?

This from the LA Times:

Dr. Ernest Zeringue was looking for a niche in the cutthroat industry of fertility treatments.
He seized on price, a huge obstacle for many patients, and in late 2010 began advertising a deal at his Davis, Calif., clinic unheard of anywhere else: Pregnancy for $9,800 or your money back.
That's about half the price for in vitro fertilization at many other clinics, which do not include money-back guarantees. Typically, insurance coverage is limited and patients pay again and again until they give birth — or give up.

Those patients use their own eggs and sperm — or carefully select donors when necessary — and the two are combined in a petri dish to create a batch of embryos. Usually one or two are then transferred to the womb. Any embryos left over are the property of the customers.

Zeringue sharply cuts costs by creating a single batch of embryos from one egg donor and one sperm donor, then divvying it up among several patients. The clinic, not the customer, controls the embryos, typically making babies for three or four patients while paying just once for the donors and the laboratory work.

People buying this option from Zeringue must accept concessions: They have no genetic connection to their children, and those children will probably have full biological siblings born to other parents.

A baby or your money back.  Ultimately IVF is expensive and often disappointing.  It is understandable that many who have paid out the nose for IVF procedures that have produced no results would be severely tempted by such an offer.  But here again our technology and free market atmosphere have led us down a path in which we have yet to consider the full consequences and implications of such an offer -- both morally and socially.

Those who want to put the brakes on such things are not the crazies who wish to prevent couples hungering to be parents from fulfilling their hearts' desire.  No, these are people who are expressing the wise and thoughtful caution that just because we can, does not mean we should. 

Over and over again the issue before us is exactly this:  technology and the free market are way ahead of the moral, ethical, and practical evaluation of these possibilities.  Life on the cheap may be a bargain to an individual couple desiring to become parents but it may be a terribly expensive consequence for society and our values as a whole.  If you read the article you would note this has been going on for 18 months.  How many couples?  How many individuals?  How many babies?  Is anybody paying attention?

Reproductive technology is among the most rapidly changing medicine there is.  It is like a racehorse chafing under the bridle of a jockey -- it is poised to jump ahead of us and it has the great potential to cause great harm unless we take this in hand and think it through.  But that is exactly what we are not doing.  We are not thinking past the moment.


Unknown said...

" Any embryos left over are the property of the customers."

Parents as customers. Says it all doesn't it.

wcbpolish said...

I wonder if this place would take as donations all those "extra" embryos in cold storage whose parents chose to make extra in case the first didn't work, but chose to discard when they had a baby.
(see snowflake embryo adoption)