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Spring 2012 • Jacqueline Pfeffer Merrill on why people sell their eggs and sperm
Summer 2008 •
Cheryl Miller on releasing the identities of egg and sperm donors
October 3, 2008 •
- “Women: Have your babies yesterday.”
- Looking for cheap IVF? 13 questions and answers about medical tourism. And just how expensive is IVF anyway?
- Biologists describe how an embryo attaches to the womb.
- The Bronx is the place to be for gay families.
- Feminism or folly? Women who conceive accidentally on purpose.
- Mothers may not tell after donor egg, sperm birth.
- Having a half-sibling on the other side of Europe.
- Men without children.
September 29, 2008 •
If you're in the Toronto area, I will be speaking about my latest New Atlantis article, "Donated Generation," at a symposium hosted by the Infertility Network. The event is this Saturday, October 4, 2008, at the Michener Institute. (Map and directions here.)
There will be some great speakers: Olivia Montuschi, co-founder of the Donor Conception Network; Kathleen LaBounty and Karen Clark, two donor-conceived adults; and Eric Schwartzman, a DI-dad.
A brief description of the seminar:
Symposium: Getting It Right – Putting Ethics At The Core Of Gamete Donation Practice
Saturday, October 4, 2008. 9:00am - 5:00pm. Open to all.
Michener Institute, 222 Saint Patrick St., Toronto (near University Ave. & Dundas St.)
Explore the complex ethical issues of egg and sperm donation from the perspectives of adult offspring, recipients and donors, as well as the LGBT and adoption communities, with input from support group leaders, researchers, ethicists, counsellors and medical professionals. The discussion will focus on the importance of education and support, along with the need for accurate, complete, accessible records, protected against loss or destruction. It will also highlight shortcomings in the current system and the need for more accountability.
Discover the similarities and differences among systems in countries that enable a donor-conceived person to learn their donor’s identity and the challenges posed by the abolition of anonymity. Listen to personal stories from offspring who want to learn more about their genetic kin. Learn how similar past practices in adoption (e.g. secrecy and sealed records) are giving way to openness and information sharing.
Hear up-to-date research on the long term medical and emotional ramifications of egg donation; the expected changes in the United Kingdom following implementation of the new legislation (e.g. provisions for offspring to access information about their half-siblings and donors about their offspring).
To learn more about the conference and to register, see the Infertility Network's website.
September 29, 2008 •
Your humble blogger has a review in the latest issue of the Weekly Standard about Donna Dickenson’s chilling exposé, Body Shopping: The Economy Fuelled by Flesh and Blood. In the piece, I discuss some of the more grisly practices of the global trade in human flesh and how we can rein in the worst of the body-snatchers:
Body Shopping describes a science that has become positively vampiric in its insatiable appetite for human tissue and organs, sometimes outright stealing the raw material it needs. A veritable black market in human flesh has been established, with each part individually appraised and priced: “Hand, $350-$850, Brain, $500-$600, Eviscerated torso, $1,100-$1,290.” A whole cadaver can fetch up to $20,000. The uses to which this tissue is put are no less gruesome. Bone dust from stolen cadavers might be found in your dental work. The collagen used to plump a starlet’s lips is likely derived from the cells of an infant’s foreskin. The “secret ingredient” in the various beauty treatments marketed to Russian women? Aborted fetuses from Ukraine.
“One way or another someone makes money off the dead,” one proud body snatcher declared, even as he pleaded guilty to over 60 counts of mutilation of human remains, and embezzlement. The entrepreneurial spirit cannot be tamed, it would seem, especially in so lucrative a venture as body shopping.
RELATED: I interviewed Professor Dickenson about her book for Conceptions here.
September 26, 2008 •
- Pregnancy on the rise, abortion rates lowest in 30 years.
- How to stay sane with multiples.
- Designing the $100,000 baby.
- Remote control male birth control.
- Clay Aiken has a gayby.
- Israeli women are coming to the U.S. to donate eggs.
- "I've become more conservative since carrying a baby to term, but not so conservative as to assume that a ball of cells is a person."
- Teen pregnancy Barbie.
- India's global surrogacy business: "Come as Couple ... Leave as Family."
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.
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.
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.
July 22, 2008 •
- Jennifer Lahl speaks at Google about the dangers of egg-harvesting. Watch the video.
- Mary Eberstadt says Humanae Vitae got it right on sexuality and technology.
- A baby boomlet? A record number of babies were born in the U.S. last year.
- “Choice Mom” Mikki Morrisette asks what donor-conceived children want.
- A British bioethicist says parents should do what they're told.
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.
July 18, 2008 • If you are in New York, you might want to stop by Lolita Bar next Tuesday, July 22nd. They'll be hosting a panel, "Women Who Have Sold Their Eggs," at 8 p.m. Panelists include graduate students Valerie Bronte and Diana Fleischman, Reason senior editor Kerry Howley, and "finance whiz" Marie Huber. The event is free. More details can be found at organizer Todd Seavey's website.
Can't make it to the Big Apple? Check out Kerry Howley's Reason article on selling your eggs.
July 7, 2008 •
Much ado about nothing? A study by scientists at Cambridge University found that children conceived by a surrogate mother or by donor conception are as "psychologically well" as their naturally-conceived counterparts. The children were only seven years old at the time so I'm skeptical as to how much this survey really tells us. What's more, most of them don't know they are donor-conceived:
In a press release, Casey added that she found a majority of parents of children born through assisted reproduction delayed telling the child about how he or she was conceived.
"At the time of the child's seventh birthday, only 39% of egg-donation parents, 29% of donor-insemination parents and 89% of surrogacy parents had told their children about the nature of their conception."
These figures contrast markedly with what the parents said they would do when they were questioned at the child's first birthday.
Another Cambridge study suggests that these seven-year-olds might not be so "psychologically well" in the future:
The children of sperm donors should be told of their origins as young as four, a new study suggests.
Scientists at Cambridge University found that those who were told as adults were three times more likely to feel angry than children.
In total 38 per cent of adults characterised their feelings as anger, compared to 12 per cent of four to 11-year-olds.
Three times as many adults also said that when they found out they were shocked, compared to 27 per cent of children.