I wanted to carry on a bit with the conversation I started in my last post. What got me going was the media attention to the Sherpas who climb Mt. Everest. It’s obviously a dangerous occupation, one that is engaged in purely for the gratification for far wealthier tourists. There’s a general concern about whether the Sherpas (who are, as far as I can tell, all men) are paid too little for the risks they take.
By contrast, the concern with women who may be surrogates or provide eggs for ART is that they are paid too much. You can read the last post and the accompanying comments to see more about this. The gendered nature of the too little/too much discussion bothers me. But there’s something else going on, too.
I know my thinking is a bit muddled here (I’m not clear in my own mind(yet?)) so let me begin by setting out another example. Can a person donate a kidney? I think it is widely agreed that this is okay. But can that person be paid for a kidney? Again, I think it is generally clear that the answer is “no.” This is so even though paying for kidneys would clearly make more kidney’s available, which arguably is a good thing. So there are indeed things which can be given away but not bought/sold.
A Sherpa’s labor is clearly not in this category. Continue reading
I’m sure many of you have read about the tragic deaths of 16 Sherpas on Mt Everest. This story, about the local response here in the Pacific Northwest, caught my attention this AM. And oddly (or perhaps not so oddly, given my general interests in all things ART) it made me think about surrogacy and surrogates.
I actually think surrogates and Sherpas have more in common than you might think even though there are obvious differences. Both undertake difficult and dangerous jobs. Most surrogates do so for money and Sherpas are paid, too. And both Sherpas and surrogates are doing work which really, when you get right down to it, doesn’t have to be done. No one has to climb Mt. Everest. No one has to use a surrogate to have a child or even has to have a child, come to that. (This last point is the subject of some of the discussion of my most recent post about social surrogacy.) Continue reading
The industry that has developed around assisted reproduction is a frequent topic here, often a controversial one. One particular arm of the industry–sperm banks and more generally the use of sperm from sperm banks–has been a frequent focus. There are undoubtedly many points of disagreement here. For instance, some suggest that no one should use third-party gametes. Others suggest that the gamete provider, by virtue of the genetic link that will always exist between provider and offspring, should always be a legal parent.
What this may hide is that there is also a fairly wide area of agreement. I’m going to write about one in particular today. There have been a number of instances–some fictional (books and movies) and some real–where men have produced dozens or scores of offspring. Continue reading
There was an interesting op-ed in the NYT yesterday. It’s about the commercialization of infertility treatment, but I think it makes points that can be understood more broadly. And, somewhat like the adoption story I blogged about yesterday, it makes me think about the importance of trying to put a bigger frame around the problem.
The authors–Miram Zoll and Pamela Tsigdinos–are women who pursued/endured “increasingly invasive and often experimental interventions, many of whose long-term health risks are still largely unknown.” The treatments were unsuccessful and eventually Zoll and Tsigndinos decided to stop. This is a decision the women are (now) happy with:
Ending our treatments was one of the bravest decisions we ever made, Continue reading
I’ve been travelling a lot recently and in Anchorage (American Bar Association Family Law Section Meeting) I was on a panel with a doctor who does fertility work in southern California. He mentioned that it was now possible to give a gift certificate that allowed the recipient to have her own eggs frozen. It turns out to be a popular gift from parents to their daughters who are graduating from law school.
The idea here is that the eggs can be harvested when the daughter is young and in her (reproductive) prime and then they can be safely stored away until after she finds Mr. (or maybe Ms?) Right and/or gets her career up and running. It’s a way of stopping–at least for a while–the biological clock. Now, thanks to the wonders of technology and the generosity of her parents, the daughter has a choice. Freezing her eggs lets her have it all.
But I worry about how sometimes choices can be illusory and sometimes something that looks like giving people a choice can be a way of exercising control. Continue reading
Just before Thanksgiving I put up a post about a fertility clinic in CA that is offering pre-made embryos for sale. (This is rather a coarse way of putting it, perhaps, but it makes the point.) There’s a lot to think about here and there have been a number of thoughtful comments. I wanted to return to the topic and offer a few further thoughts to continue the conversation.
First, for those who think that selling eggs and sperm is wrong, this too is obviously wrong. I think it is fair to say that for those people it is wrong for the same reasons selling sperm and eggs would be wrong–and there are a whole array of reasons. While I think there is an important conversation here–about the propriety of selling sperm/eggs–it is one that has already received extensive attention here.
This why I want to focus on why those who are comfortable with a market for eggs/sperm might nevertheless draw the line at the market for pre-made embryos. Continue reading
First off a Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. It’s been a long fall from my point of view and I’ve been less then satisfied with my ability to get posts up here. Things might improve a little with the end of the semester but of course, only time will really tell. In the meantime, I appreciate all of your patience and your participation.
Now, this story from the LA Times caught my eye. It’s about a new frontier in ART marketing.
Generally if someone is going to do IVF they provide the sperm and eggs which are then combined in a lab to create pre-embryos. If people are not using their own gametes they generally obtain sperm and/or eggs from banks or clinics. There’s been lots of discussion here about that process of shopping for gametes and it’s good to keep that in mind. Continue reading
I have been thinking about this story from yesterday’s NYT. (I think it was yesterday as it marked “Sunday Review” but the date on it is November 3. In any event, I only saw the on-line version.) I found it both sad and disturbing and I assume my reaction was not unlike that of many other people.
The essay, by Susan Straight, portrays the life of C, a neighbor of Straight’s. C is something like a professional surrogate. She’s been pregnant for other couples three times. She has been paid a total of $115,000. While that is doubtless a lot of money, the day to day circumstances of her last pregnancy weren’t pretty and nothing in this story would make you want to rush out and be a surrogate. Indeed, I think it is hard to finish the essay without a feeling that something is wrong with this picture.
And what is it that is wrong? Continue reading
Yesterday’s NYT has a story about fertility services being offered as prizes in variously structured contests. I’ve written about this idea a couple of times in the past couple of years–once a couple of years ago when a UK clinic offered a IVF as a door prize and more recently when there was a Facebook contest with free IVF as the reward.
Yesterday’s story suggests that these were just early instances of what is becoming a more widespread phenomenon. All manner of prize-oriented promotions are cropping up–video essay contests, raffles, lotteries, race sponsorships and so on. It makes perfect sense, really. As Douglas Quenqua, who wrote the NYT piece, notes:
The people who stage the raffles say that both sides benefit: one woman gets free treatment, and the sponsor gets publicity. Continue reading
As I’ve written in the past, there have been persistent reports of sperm shortages in the UK and Canada. The stories–particularly the ones from the UK–are vexing as people draw causal links that seem to me to be unwarranted. (In particular, people related the UK sperm shortage to a change in UK law regarding anonymity despite the fact there appear to be more donors since the law took effect.)
Anyway here’s a very brief story about another reported sperm shortage–one new to me. This time it is in China. Continue reading