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October 10, 2008 •
- Is it wrong to want a deaf baby?
- Oregon court sees frozen embryos as property rights issue.
- The hidden health risks for the children of sperm donors.
- India: It’s time we had a law on surrogacy.
- How test tube babies changed the world.
- A new, safer test for Down syndrome.
- “Human evolution is only at the beginning!”
- Incest fears down under?
- Families in the making.
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 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."
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.
September 2, 2008 •
- Secondary infertility: the “loneliest kind” of infertility.
- Two takes on genetic screening: “I regretted taking the test.” “For me, if I wanted another child, there was no other choice.”
- Would you go to extremes to choose the sex of your baby? Babble wants to know.
- Dara Torres: Infertility hero.
- No more Viking donors? FDA mad cow rules go into effect at sperm banks.
- Are Indian surrogates being exploited?
- Pete Shanks wants more regulation of ART in the U.S.
- Australia’s lucrative IVF industry.
- News of the weird: Brit grows marijauana to pay for IVF.
- Blinded by science: EPPC’s Yuval Levin eviscerates Diana DeGette’s Sex, Science, and Stem Cells.
- Donor-conceived children are looking for their “Y-guy.” Should they have the right to know their biological father’s identity?
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 9, 2008 •
- A new IVF technique gives hope to infertile men.
- Frozen embryo babies are just as healthy as fresh ones.
- Affordable IVF comes to Africa.
- “The little boy with three mums (and they're all sisters).”
- Men have a biological clock too. But who cares? They’ll just hit the snooze button anyway.
- Help! My biological clock isn’t loud enough!
- Are children with Down syndrome being “exterminated” in the womb? Or do we have an “obligation” to select the best children we can have?
- A 70-year-old Indian woman becomes the world’s oldest mother.
- The pregnant man gives birth.
- Uterus size can predict some premature deliveries.
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.
June 27, 2008 •
Here's a welcome development: India is working on legislation to address the recent boom in surrogate motherhood there:
Concerned with an increasing number of foreigners coming to India to rent a womb, the government is planning to come out with regulations to ensure legal and medical rights to surrogate mothers and children born to them.
"We have seen that couples fly to India, persuade a woman here to rent out her womb for money and then they happily take the child to their country. How do they get the child's passport?" an agitated Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury told reporters here Wednesday....As of now, there is no law on surrogacy in India. There are certain guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on surrogacy and Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART), she said.
For experts, the major concern is the number of young girls opting for surrogacy, which is also affecting the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR). Thus, issues like the minimum age limit and health conditions that need to be considered will come up for discussion.
The most premature twins born in Britain just celebrated their first birthday:
Mikey and Gracie Swindell were born dead at 24 weeks.
Medics spent an hour battling to bring the twins — who each weighed 1 pound, 9 ounces — back to life.
[...] "We call them our little miracles," said Lisa Swindell, 28, of Chatham, Kent, who conceived the babies through in-vitro fertilization after she and her husband, Paul, tried to conceive naturally for five years.
June 23, 2008 •
- CDC: One in every 100 U.S. babies is a test-tube baby.
- Solo "daddies": More men are going it alone.
- 52-year-old woman gives birth to her own grandchildren.
- “Children--It's now or never.”
- Too posh to adopt?
- “More little Quebecers, more little taxpayers?” But if there's not money for cancer, should there be for IVF?
- Fertility problems may be partially inherited. And a new perspective on infertility.
- How to protect your fertility.
- A surrogate mom: “I would tell people, well, when you baby-sit kids, do you want to keep them?”