BioethicsWed Nov 21, 2012 - 4:49 pm EST
Baby, or your money back: fertility doctor mass produces, then sells embryos for $9,800
Davis, CA, November 21, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A doctor in Davis, California is promising a successful IVF pregnancy for just $9,800, with an unheard-of money-back guarantee. The catch? Patients will be implanted with someone else’s baby.
In-vitro fertilization (IVF) is notoriously expensive. A single round of IVF averages $12,400, with no guarantee of a pregnancy. Women wishing to become pregnant using the method must often undergo the procedure repeatedly until they end up with a baby or run out of money, since insurance typically limits how much can be spent on the procedure.
Dr. Ernest Zeringue cuts costs by creating a large batch of embryos from one egg donor and one sperm donor, and implanting them in several patients. The clinic, not the customer, controls the embryos. This way, he can make babies for three or four clients while paying only once for donors and laboratory work.
People who buy this option from Zeringue make compromises some find unsettling. They are genetically unrelated to their children, and the children will likely have biological siblings born to other parents.
Zeringue describes the process on the clinic’s website as similar to adoption, but more enjoyable, with fewer legal complications.
“Since the embryo donors have waived their parental rights to the embryos,” Zeringue writes, “the intended mother gets to carry and grow her child with no legal challenges or problems with parental rights after childbirth. Intended parents get to enjoy being pregnant, have their names placed on their baby’s birth certificate, and build a family without the complexities of adoption.”
Conservative bioethics writer Wesley Smith slammed Zeringue’s scheme. “What a world: Now, it doesn’t even matter who and where the babies come from,” he said. “The commoditization of human life continues. Regulate? Not in our entitled age.”
“I am horrified by the thought of this,” Andrew Vorzimer, a Los Angeles fertility lawyer, told the Los Angeles Times. Echoing Smith’s criticism, Vorzimer added, “It is nothing short of the commodification of children.”
Dr. Robert Klitzman, a bioethicist at Columbia University, agreed with Vorzimer. He told the Times that Zeringue’s approach essentially amounted to creating embryos for sale. “It gets kind of creepy,” Klitzman said. “There is a yuck factor. We need to proceed very carefully.”
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Zeringue, however, dismisses ethical concerns about his methods. Most of his customers have run out of money and patience by the time they come to his clinic, he said. “They’re kind of at the end of the line.”
Natosha Dukart, from Calgary, was one of them. She and her husband, Brad, spent more than $100,000 on IVF without success. They maxed out their credit cards, flipped houses and moved four times to fund eight rounds of IVF. Still, they had no baby.
Then Natosha found Zeringue’s clinic, California Conceptions. The money-back guarantee proved impossible to resist.
With no financial risk, Natosha told the Times, “It was an easy choice.”
She sent their photographs to Zeringue and applied for a Caucasian baby. Two months later, they received a profile of an embryo the clinic had frozen in storage. Both donors had brown eyes and healthy family histories.
The Dukarts liked the description. So last February, they traveled to California to undergo their ninth round of IVF – this time using embryos created by strangers.
“It was just as emotional as it was with our own embryos,” she said.
The Dukarts didn’t end up needing to take advantage of Zeringue’s money-back guarantee. Last month, Natosha gave birth to a baby girl she named Milauna.
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