The conception-industrial complex: IVF and broken promises

The conception-industrial complex: IVF and broken promises

As Catholics we know the moral pitfalls of in vitro fertilization, but now it seems like the rest of society is catching up as well, finding mainly secular reasons why it may not be such a good deal for infertile couples.

Slate has a review of two new books on assisted reproduction and the problems they entail.

The fertility industry has been far better at inventing awe-inspiring technology—and selling it to the public—than it has been at counseling patients about the risks of procedures and how these technologies will shape families, sometimes in ways they didn’t anticipate.

One of the problems they present is that of multiple simultaneous births of twins, triplets, and quadruplets. While more children are not in themselves a problem—except insofar as a family might have trouble with a sudden onslaught of babies and the fact that multiples have more health problems—what often happens with multiples is “selective reduction”, i.e. aborting some of the babies.

It’s not easy to be clearheaded about life-altering decisions—and ask hard-nosed questions of your doctors—when the emotional stakes are so high. Then there’s the financial calculus, which pushes patients toward wringing the most out of every fertility treatment. IVF cycles typically cost about $12,000, and only a handful of states mandate insurance coverage. So, when a doctor asks a patient, 10 minutes before the embryo transfer, whether she wants to implant two or three or four embryos—-and she’s recently taken out a second mortgage to fund her pregnancy attempts—-it’s pretty tempting to choose the greatest number of embryos, thereby upping the odds of pregnancy, but also the risk of twins, triplets, and quadruplets.

Then there are the effects on husbands and wives, for whom the process becomes an end in itself, divorced from the unitive aspects of marital relations.

Birth defects and passing on infertility

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli