Assisted Reproductive Technologies


ART in the News

Gaybies, Afterdeath Children, the 66 Club, and more

September 15, 2008

posted by Cheryl Miller | 8:37 am
File As: Assisted Reproductive Technologies, In Vitro Fertilization, Eugenics, Contemporary, GLBT Parents, Third-Party Reproduction

Two Articles of Note

September 9, 2008

Single men are hearing their biological clock ticking. And they’re not waiting for Mrs. (or Mr.) Right:

Daniel E. Gurr, a doctor in Miami, had always wanted a baby. The yearning lasted through his 30s and early 40s, through medical school and into his residency. That longing created tension; he and his longtime boyfriend, he said, fought each time the subject came up.

At 46, Dr. Gurr, who is settled in his job but now unattached, is finally fulfilling his wish. Next month, through a surrogate, he will become the single parent of a baby boy.

“I’ve always felt that I wanted fatherhood to be a part of my life,” he said. “It’s just a core part of who I’ve always been. I absolutely would want a partner, but I couldn’t let my life wait for that random event.”

In other news, parents of disabled children look to Sarah Palin as an advocate:

Many in the disability community said they hoped Trig Palin’s appearance at the convention would lead to greater public acceptance of his condition. “Why shouldn’t she have him there? There’s nothing to hide,” said Connie Hutzel of Mason, Ohio, whose son Carson, 11 years old, has Down syndrome.

 

posted by Cheryl Miller | 8:18 am
File As: Assisted Reproductive Technologies, Eugenics, Contemporary, Surrogacy, GLBT Parents

The Challenge of Using a Known Donor

September 2, 2008

Still more on the plight of donor-conceived people. First, from the Walrus, a fascinating piece on frontier families” by a “dumped” sperm donor. Matthew Hayes, a gay man living in Canada, gives an inside look at the life of known donors:

Suzy, one of my closest and oldest friends, was phoning from her Toronto home. “Matt, I don’t really know how to say this to you. But we’ve decided to go in another direction. I don’t feel like this is working out.”

It was a few sentences that were both simple and entirely complex. But the essence of it was easy enough to summarize: I was being dumped as a sperm donor.

[...] I was hardly alone. In fact, I was caught in the gears of the various new machinations emerging from the burgeoning number of queer families, and one particular decision faced by many lesbians aspiring to parenthood. They have the means, but they still need sperm to get the job done. There are two options at this fork in the road: do they go the anonymous sperm donor route, or do they harvest the sperm of a close friend (usually gay)? We might call it the plan A (anonymous donor) or plan B (close gay friend) conundrum.

Second, from Choice Moms, Mikki Morrisette talks with a potential sperm donor and a reproductive law attorney about the pros and cons of using a known donor.  

posted by Cheryl Miller | 3:30 pm
File As: Assisted Reproductive Technologies, GLBT Parents, Sperm Donation, Third-Party Reproduction

ART in the News

Y-guys, the loneliest kind of infertility, Dara Torres, and more

September 2, 2008

posted by Cheryl Miller | 10:06 am
File As: Assisted Reproductive Technologies, In Vitro Fertilization, Eugenics, Contemporary, Surrogacy, Third-Party Reproduction, Down syndrome

Donated Generation

August 28, 2008

The summer issue of The New Atlantis is now online. As always, there are some terrific articles, including Rita Koganzon's foray into the world of Second Life and James Bowman look at the "dumbest generation."

Your humble blogger also has an article in the issue--it's on donor-conceived children and the rise of open-donor programs. Many, many thanks are in order to DI-Dad blogger Eric Schwartzman and Circle Surrogacy's John Weltman for sharing their stories. Joanna Scheib and Elizabeth Marquardt were both incredibly helpful and generous with their time and knowledge.

An excerpt:

When Eric Schwartzman went in for a medical exam six months before his wedding, he didn't expect to hear he was infertile. After the examination, the doctor suggested Schwartzman have a sperm-count test. Schwartzman thought nothing of it. Then the results came in. He was diagnosed with azoospermia, a condition in which the man produces virtually no sperm. "Don't plan on having kids naturally," his doctor told him. "You can just adopt."

Schwartzman and his wife were devastated. He offered to call off the wedding, but she refused. Instead, they went to a fertility clinic, where Schwartzman underwent two testicular biopsies to retrieve sperm for in vitro fertilization (IVF). As a backup, his doctor suggested the couple select a sperm donor, and they agreed without really taking the possibility seriously. But when two IVF cycles failed, he and his wife reconsidered.

Schwartzman is now the father of two "half-adopted" children, as he calls them, both conceived through donor insemination. Most of the time, he says, he focuses on day-to-day life--"getting them potty trained" and the like. But he sometimes wonders what effect their unusual beginnings will have on them. 

posted by Cheryl Miller | 3:49 pm
File As: Assisted Reproductive Technologies, In Vitro Fertilization, Egg Donation, Sperm Donation, Third-Party Reproduction

Questions for Robert Terenzio, Repro Attorney

Finding the right attorney, handling conflicts, and more

August 25, 2008 • After a long hiatus, Conceptions is finally back with another interview. This month’s subject is Robert Terenzio, a reproductive law attorney in Orlando, Florida. Robert’s practice, Reproductive Alternatives, specializes in surrogacy arrangements and egg donation. He also helps Sharon LaMothe (a former Conceptions interview subject) run Infertility Answers, an educational clearinghouse for fertility issues. He graduated in 1991 from Quinnipiac College School of Law in Connecticut.

In this interview, we discuss how reproductive law has evolved, statutory differences among states, and why it’s so important to have an attorney.

[Interview edited and condensed by Cheryl Miller.]

How did you become interested in reproductive law? Are there many attorneys working in this field?

RT: Generically, most attorneys get involved because they’ve had some contact with it. A lot of us were adoption lawyers, who may or may not have dealt with infertility issues. I’ve never had an infertility issue, but some years ago I was helping a group of clients put together an infertility company and as I grew to understand more aspects of infertility, I started dismissing more parts of my practice. Now, I just focus on infertility.

In the state of Florida, there’s only about eight of us. Most of them came out of the adoption area, and added this on their practice. Nationally, I seem to run into the same people over and over again.

I’m a science geek. It’s interesting being involved in an area where the technology seemingly changes day to day, and by changing, it affects the way that we as attorneys have to look at how this technology is affecting people.

Is there a typical day in your practice? If so, what is it like?


RT: Thankfully, no there’s not. Part of the day could be wrapping up a blog entry for my website—I’m looking at something coming out of the news and trying to extrapolate and challenge people to think about the future. Part of it is educational—looking at Infertility Answers and seeing what information could be added to the website. The biggest bloc of time is talking to clients and filling in the gaps with what they might have heard from their agencies and their doctors.

The joke is that we all, in our own ways, become psychologists, in trying to create a reasonably stable, predictable framework for people who have lost control of something that most of the population takes for granted.

How do you find clients? What is your client base like, and has it changed over the years?


RT: The majority of my clients are referred either by agencies that I’ve worked with in the past or reproductive endocrinologists. I have a wide range of clients. I’m getting more and more people for the U.K. and the European Union, who are fed up with either waiting or with the rather conservative laws. Instead of waiting for three, five, or seven years, they can come to the U.S. and get a process up and running within months.

I’ve seen an increase over time in singles, be they male or female. For every five single males I’m working with, there might be one single female.

Why is it important to have an attorney?

RT: I think it’s foolhardy to move forward with something important as a child and not feel assured that everyone has been represented by an impartial attorney. Conflicts of interest are not taken well by the courts.

We’ve learned over time and experience, both positive and negative, how to create a larger and larger safety net for intended parents and gestational carriers. The more progressive states have figured this out already and created statutes.

How are laws among states different? Are there advantages to contracting for a surrogate or egg donor in a particular state?

RT: When you have a statutory framework, it removes a lot of the unpredictability in the process that might exist in other states. In Florida, surrogacies and egg donations are based on the intention of the parties—everyone intends for a result to occur. The court can then rely on that intention to give you what you want, for example, a birth certificate with your name on it.

In a non-statutory state—even one where you have a very pro-gestational surrogacy environment like California—you’re dealing more with the best interest of the child as the basis for how the courts are going to look at the relationship between the carrier and the parents. When you’re an intended parent and you’ve spent thousands of dollars, you want as much predictability as possible.

If you don’t like what’s going on where you’re at, you vote with your feet. Here in the state of Florida, we can easily assure our clients that they’re going to walk away with a birth certificate. But if we take a ride into Georgia, where they go with the best interest of the child standard, that child is not guaranteed to end up in your home.

How do you handle tensions betweens intended parents and surrogates/donors?


RT: There’s always tension. I like to say to clients that the relationship over the year is going to wax and wane. Some days everyone is going to be nice to each other, and some days you aren’t even going to want to pick up the phone when you know it’s the other person. No one really worries about that unless it becomes adversarial. If it becomes adversarial, the team approach kicks in: the agency, the doctor’s office, and the attorneys have a role.

What should people look for in a reproductive attorney?


RT: You want to be confident that the person has done this before. I get a lot of, “My uncle did adoptions 20 years ago...” or “My neighbor is a family attorney...” Being down in the trenches—talking to the judges who themselves are learning this stuff, resolving problems that arise in the course of a pregnancy, and going to the conferences—those sorts of things give you the ability as an attorney to do two things. First, it gives you the ability to write up a generic contract. But more importantly, it gives you the ability to anticipate the problems that may arise—either in your state because of the way your laws are set up or between the parties because of divergent personalities.

What’s the best part of being a reproductive attorney?

RT: I think the hallmark of this area of the law—which I’ve not seen anywhere else and just reinvigorates me—you’re able to provide an avenue of hope to people who not too long ago had no hope whatsoever. Unlike most areas of law, this always seems to be a regular win-win situation for everyone. The gestational carriers are doing something they absolutely want to do. The intended parents are walking away with the one thing they couldn’t have but for the interaction of all the other professionals.

The best part of my week is when a client calls and says, “Hey, we’re pregnant. Our due date is such-and-such...” You can hear the gratitude and, more importantly, can actually participate in someone’s joy. 

posted by Cheryl Miller | 6:15 pm
File As: Assisted Reproductive Technologies, Surrogacy, Egg Donation, Reproductive Law, Third-Party Reproduction, Conceptions Interviews

Which Baby Do You Want?

July 22, 2008

Nature says don't worry about "designer babies." Not so fast, says Daniel MacArthur, a blogger at the excellent site Genetic Future:

[I]t's safe to say that there will be no perfect baby. Instead, the prospective parents will face a tough choice between embryo A, who will likely be tall, slim, smart and cancer-free but have a higher-than-average chance of bipolar, early-onset dementia, and infertility; embryo B, who will be a little shorter, dark-haired, probably fairly gregarious, resistant to coronary artery disease, susceptible to bowel cancer, hypertension and early deafness; embryo C, who will be of average intelligence, unlikely to suffer premature baldness, prone to mild obesity and diabetes, but not at a high risk of any of the other major common diseases; and embryos D-N, who present a similar panel of competing probabilities.

...The parents-to-be will sit down together with dossiers listing a huge set of statistical predictions for each of their potential children, and make a decision as to which (if any) of these abstract collections of traits and risks they wish to bring into this world. Decisions don't get much more emotionally traumatic than this: not only will they be making a decision that will shape their own lives and that of their future offspring, parents will carry a new, extra burden of responsibility for the fate of their children. If they decide on embryo A, and their child goes on to develop severe bipolar disease, they will carry the guilt of that decision in addition to the trauma of the disease itself.

That's not to say that embryo selection is unworkable — in fact, I think it's inevitable — but rather that this process is likely to require a degree of agonising trade-offs on the part of parents-to-be that is seldom fully appreciated. While I have no moral problem with the notion of embryo selection, part of me is glad that my child-bearing years are likely to be over before I have the chance to face this particular dilemma...

posted by Cheryl Miller | 5:44 pm
File As: Assisted Reproductive Technologies, Eugenics, Contemporary

ART in the News

July 22, 2008

posted by Cheryl Miller | 3:15 pm
File As: Assisted Reproductive Technologies, Egg Donation, Third-Party Reproduction

Still More on 30 Years of IVF (And Britain's Donor Shortage)

July 22, 2008

The London Telegraph has a series of articles on ART today, including a number of first-hand accounts from patients and donors. There are some great stories, but since I'm working on a piece about donor registries, I was most interested in the ones about the effect of the anonymity ban on donor recruitment. 

The answer is not good — as this U.K. government report recently attested.

Sophie Turner and her partner Karen Harvey have spent two years trying to conceive a child. After learning about the waiting list for sperm donors, the couple turned to a Danish cryobank. The trips did not result in a baby, so the couple returned to the U.K. where they are still waiting for a donor:

After two failed attempts, she's being treated at Barts, where there's a three-month waiting list for British sperm. Any child we have will be able to contact the sperm donor when he or she is 18; I think it's a good thing that children know where they come from, but I'm not sure of the effect it will have on us as a family.

Sue Adlam is a school teacher. She waited a year for an egg donor to conceive her first child, and is now searching for another donor to conceive a sibling:

I feel as if I've spent half my life waiting, but as anyone who's ever suffered from infertility knows, what keeps you going through all the sadness is the prospect of the amazing miracle of a baby at the end of it all. Many women are faced with the prospect of a wait of at least two years, but my hope is that things will begin to improve in the long term.

posted by Cheryl Miller | 2:41 pm
File As: Assisted Reproductive Technologies, In Vitro Fertilization, Egg Donation, GLBT Parents, Sperm Donation, Third-Party Reproduction

In Vitro We Trust

July 21, 2008

Nature is not the only one looking back on the birth of Louise Brown. In the New York Times, Peggy Orenstein reflects on the history of IVF and the challenges ahead:

Louise Brown turns 30 on Friday. These days, her name elicits little more than a mystified head shake. Who was she again? Let me refresh your memory: Little Louise was the world’s first “test-tube baby,” what we now refer to as an I.V.F. kid, or simply “the twins down the block.”

Brown’s life today is as unremarkable as the circumstances of her conception have become: she’s worked as an administrative assistant in Bristol, England, and is married with a naturally conceived toddler of her own. It’s hard to imagine that she begat one of the major revolutions of the 20th century: since her debut, more than three million babies have been born worldwide using I.V.F. or other reproductive technologies.

[I]t’s easy to forget the disturbing questions about I.V.F. — its practices, ethics and impact on public health — that do remain and are left largely subject to a physician’s conscience and a patient’s desires. The trouble is, doctors who do I.V.F. are selling a product and their patients are so vulnerable, their experience with infertility so fraught, that they’re not always willing or even able to act in what seems like their own best interest.

posted by Cheryl Miller | 8:13 pm
File As: Assisted Reproductive Technologies, In Vitro Fertilization

Previous  Next