BioethicsWed Jul 4, 2012 - 7:27 pm EST
Let’s celebrate?: Estimated 30 million lives sacrificed for 5 million ‘test tube babies’
ISTANBUL, Turkey, July 4, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – While some doctors are celebrating an estimated 5 million living people created through Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART includes IVF and ICSI) since the world’s first ‘test tube baby’, Louise Brown, was born 34 years ago, one prominent critic has slammed the technology for what he says is an unethical treatment of human life and a chimerical solution to women suffering from infertility.
“If 5 million babies have been born as a result of in vitro fertilization, then at least six times that many human lives have been aborted in the earliest and most vulnerable stages of development in the womb,” said Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers in a statement to LifeSiteNews.
Hligers, senior medical consultant in obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive medicine and surgery at the Pope Paul VI Institute and a clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Creighton University School of Medicine, was referring to the fact that in a typical IVF procedure, many more embryos are created than will ultimately be implanted in the mother’s womb - while the rest are either frozen indefinitely or simply destroyed.
The estimated figure of living humans created through ART was presented at the 28th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), which took place over the weekend in Istanbul, Turkey.
Current data indicates that about 1.5 million ART cycles are performed globally each year, producing about 350,000 babies. These figures indicate that 1.15 million procedures are not effective, resulting in a huge loss of nascent human life. According to the data, the two most active ART countries in the world are the USA, followed by Japan.
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Commenting on what the ESHRE calls a “remarkable milestone”, Dr David Adamson, chairman of the International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ICMART), told the ESHRE that ART technology has “improved greatly over the years to increase pregnancy rates.”
“The babies are as healthy as those from other infertile patients who conceive spontaneously,” he said.
However, a variety of research published in recent years has painted a different picture.
One recent study titled “Birth defects in children conceived by in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection: a meta-analysis” concludes that infants conceived by ART, whether through ICSI or IVF, have a “significantly increased risk of birth defects” when compared to infants conceived through natural/spontaneous conception.
So well-established has the link between ART and birth defects and other health problems become that in 2009 the British government’s embryo research authority warned potential parents that children conceived artificially through in vitro fertilization have a thirty percent higher risk of genetic abnormalities.
But supporters of the technology have not been deterred by such findings.
“Five million babies are a clear demonstration that IVF and ICSI are now an essential part of normalised and standardised clinical therapies for the treatment of infertile couples,” said Dr Anna Veiga, Chairman of ESHRE, and Scientific Director, Dexeus University Institute, Barcelona. She added that “many aspects have changed since the early days of IVF, especially the results in terms of babies born, but there is still room for improvement.”
Dr Simon Fishel, Managing Director CARE Fertility, UK, and a member of the Edwards and Steptoe group in Cambridge responsible for the birth of Louise Brown said that the “5 million milestone … justifies all the legal and moral battles, the ethical debates and hard-fought social approval” that has surrounded ART.
Professor André Van Steirteghem, ICSI pioneer, said, “at 5 million babies and counting, I think we can now fairly say that the vast majority of fertility problems - whether of male or female origin - can be successfully and safely treated by IVF or ICSI.”
However, Dr. Hilgers, the creator of NaProTechnology, a natural approach to women’s fertility-care that does not does not involve abortifacient or otherwise ethically problematic methods, told LifeSiteNews that in the U.S., ART has “only served one half of 1% of the infertile women suffering from a myriad of reproductive health anomalies,” adding that the assisted reproductive solutions do not “heal the woman or relieve her of her diseased state in any way.”
NaProTechnology (Natural Procreative Technology), based on thirty years of research into the fertility cycle of women, monitors the occurrence of various hormonal events during a woman’s menstrual cycle. The method works cooperatively with a woman’s procreative and gynecologic systems.
When used to treat infertility alone, NaProTechnology is reportedly 1.5-3 times as successful as IVF in assisting couples to achieve pregnancy – and without the enormous financial cost and adverse emotional and other psychological effects of in vitro fertilization.
“Not only is NaProTechnology more effective in achieving pregnancy, it also gets to the root of the disease problem to cure the illness, not just temporarily cover up symptoms,” said Dr. Hilgers. “For those concerned about the ethics of these artificial technologies, it’s good to know there is an alternative solution.”