Infertility Medicine: An Unregulated Industry

MP900315620They’ve gone rogue.

The infertility industry not only allows for unreported, anonymous sperm donations and child-freezing but also for the killing of children at the whim of adults (parents, judges, doctors, technicians, etc.).

What about the children’s rights? They basically have none, at least not any that an adult would feel bound to respect, and the children involved have the disadvantage of not being the paying customer in the industry. There are no checks and balances set in place, legal or social, to protect the rights of the children created, handled, and destroyed by the infertility industry.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute explains it this way in an interview with Todd Wilken on Issues, Etc. (November 22, 2011):

“A lot of our social systems have built-in, self-correction mechanisms…[T]he free market where we let people do what they want has built into it a system of property rights protection and a system of competition to keep people from getting too far out of hand. There’s nothing built in to in vitro fertilization and the industry around it that stops people from going too far. Absolutely nothing.”

If there are no checks and balances set in place in the infertility industry, what exactly is powering the frantic steam roller that is infertility medicine? Dr. Morse explains:

“[W]e have sort of drifted into the system that we have now. [N]obody ever sat down and said to themselves, ‘You know, I think it would be a great idea if anyone with money could do anything they want as far as bringing a child into being, whether they have to have a relationship with their child’s other parent or not. We’re going to give legal parenting rights to whoever intends to be a parent, never mind if there’s any biological relationship or anything like that.’ Nobody sat down and thought through and said, ‘Hey, this is a great idea. Let’s do it.’ We just kind of drifted into this position, and the in vitro fertilization industry is pretty much unregulated. People say it’s like the Wild West. Well, that’s actually kind of a smirch on the Wild West, because the Wild West did have some sense of order and some internal sense of right and wrong. And in this particular case, people seem to think that as long as the adults get what they want, they don’t really have to think through what they’re doing to the individual child. And they certainly don’t have to think through what they’re doing to the whole system that everybody is operating within…I think it is really quite appalling that what we’ve got is a system that is being driven by two things…One, it’s being driven by the passions of the infertile woman, and, two, it’s being driven by the greed of the infertility industry.”

(Dr. Morse’s full interview can be heard here.)

In a recent interview on NPR’s Fresh Air (January 17, 2013), science editor Judith Shulevitz shines the light on the fact that we can’t even be sure of the longterm medical consequences to both the mother and children affected by infertility treatments:

“[W]e just don’t know what we’re doing. There just isn’t a lot of data, particularly in America. The good stuff is coming out of other countries where they actually have the information collated in a national health registry. In this country, the fertility industry only reports pregnancy rates to the CDC – the Centers for Disease Control – and we don’t do follow up studies.”

Ms. Shulevitz continues to explain that it is not just a lack of required data which should cause us concern but also the cavalier, consumer-driven mentality which steam-powers an already unregulated industry:

“[W]e’re not studying [fertility] enough. We don’t regulate it enough.[W]e celebrate triumphantly each breakthrough as if it was an absolute good, and we don’t go cautiously enough and I think that’s a problem, and as the age of first birth creeps up more, and more women are going to be availing themselves of these technologies, and I think that we really ought to go carefully.”

(Ms. Shulevitz’s full interview can be heard here. PLEASE NOTE: I neither agree with nor endorse Ms. Shulevitz’s personal views on feminism, birth control, or family planning.)