I’ve written about ICSI (that intracytoplasmic sperm injection) in the past. It’s a technique that allows fertility docs to take sperm and inject them into the egg. This means they can be immobile, ineffective or (I think) virtually dead. You basically put them where they need to go.
While there are some concerns about this technique (some say that the sperm who cannot find their way there on their own are more likely to produce flawed offspring) you can also see the appeal. ICSI eliminates many instances of male infertility. This story illustrates the point.
Jason Schrialdi had but a single sperm to work with. Remarkably, that one sperm was used to fertilize an egg produced by his wife, Jennifer Schrialdi, and this lead to the birth of their daughter, Kenley. I guess this is newsworthy because the typical man produces vast numbers of sperm and while it is true that the actual fertilization only takes one, millions fall by the wayside before that one reaches its goal. With only one sperm to work with, there is no margin for error at all.
Apart from marvelling at the technical achievement, what’s to say about an accomplishment like this. No doubt it is wonderful for the individuals involved and I do not mean to cast any cloud over that, nor to trivialize its importance. But at the same time, it is evidence of the lengths to which people will go in order to have a genetically related child.
This makes me think about what the source of that craving for genetic connection is. I am well aware that many will say that it is just natural–the way we are programmed. But I am actually skeptical about that, as I’m sure you know. At the very least, I’m persuaded that whatever natural craving there is has been magnified by an array of cultural forces we’ve talked about here in the past. And I’m not at all sure that this is a good thing.
In other contexts (at least as I recall) people have been critical of the ART industry, and I wonder if some of that critique is applicable here. Men with low sperm counts are vulnerable in a number of ways. ICSI offers them a cure for a problem that may well make them feel less masculine. Of course the cure comes at a price–in terms of money, in terms of physical discomfort, and in terms of potential risk to the offspring. But it is not hard for me to see why for many men (and for many couples) the price ends up seeming reasonable.
And what should we think about all this? Is the phenomena illustrated here good, bad or indifferent? (That’s putting it rather simplistically, I know.) For those who care, it can be seen to validate the importance of the genetic link and allows people to have “their own” children as opposed to having to adopt or use third-party gametes. But is it a good use of energy and resources? Wouldn’t we be better off if people didn’t feel they had to go to such great lengths to have a genetically related child?