I’m not a devotee of This American Life, but I do listen to the podcast from time to time. Last week’s episode was called Family Physics. Act I–“Occam’s Razor“–is what I wanted to call to your attention.
I suppose I should now say “spoiler alert” so that if you want to listen to it without knowing where it is going, you can do that now. (I’m not sure if you can listen for free after the week it is on.) There’s really no chance I can tell this story anywhere near as well as it was presented on the radio. But I’ll try. Continue reading
I’m of two minds about how to get things going again here. On the one hand, there are all these bits and pieces of news to highlight/comment on. On the other, having taken a step back, it’s probably a good time to revisit some “first principles”–the underlying assumptions that shape all those comments. Rather than choose, I’m going to try to do a bit of both. I’ll use the heading “News in Brief” for those items where I am playing catch-up on current events. (It’s a heading I used regularly a couple of years ago for a similar purpose.)
So here’s some new in brief. For some years, the UK has had a centralized agency concerned with ART. (That’s Assisted Reproductive Technology.) It’s called the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority, which is generally shortened to HFEA. It describes itself (as you’ll see if you go look at the homepage) as an “independent regulator. The HFEA also collects all sorts of interesting statistics, which are undoubtedly useful if one is thinking about making policy in this area. I’ve frequently commented about HFEA policies or relied on its statistics. Continue reading
Posted in news
Doubtless many remember when, about 11 months ago, Nadya Suleman gave birth to octuplets. I wrote about it a number of times as the story unfolded. Surely this was a case of ART gone wild–you may recall that Suleman ended up with 14 children under the age of 8.
I just wanted to flag this little tidbit for those who are still interested in the story. It appears that Michael Kamrava, the fertility doctor responsible for the Suleman’s pregnancies, including the one that lead to octuplets, is facing disciplinary proceedings.
The octuplets case spurred some discussion of regulation of ART. I think in the end only one piece of legislation was actually enacted. That was in Georgia and you can follow the development of the legislation starting here. It ended up with a law that, to my mind, hardly counts as a regulation of ART but rather promotes “embryo adoption.” I think it is fair to say that, in the US, ART remains a largely unregulated industry. (This is not the case in many other countries, including the UK and Canada.) Continue reading
Reading a blog from yesterday on the NYT website, I came across an entry about this report. It looks to be a pretty comprehensive report on a similarly comprehensive survey of adoptive parents. I’m sure there are literally thousands of interesting facts and observations that can be gleaned from a careful study of the report. I’m going to try to take a closer look in coming days/weeks.
It’s also interesting to note what isn’t there, of course. So, for instance, my cursory examination of the section on “Family Structure” makes me think it doesn’t include separate consideration of same-sex couples. They may well be included in unmarried couples, but I couldn’t tell. Continue reading
I’ve been mulling over a recent news story from Australia that someone sent to me. It’s a rather complicated tale.
Ms. Fabian and Ms. Halifax (they only give last names in the story) were in a relationship for about seven years. During that time, each of them gave birth to a child. Ms. Halifax used sperm from a family friend, identified as Mr. Dalton. That child is now seven. Ms. Fabian used sperm from an anonymous donor. That child, a girl, is the subject of the litigation. She is now three.
The two women separated when the daughter was 20 months old. At the time they lived in Queensland, but at least Ms. Fabian, and perhaps both, were from New South Wales. Ms. Fabian now wants to return to New South Wales.
Her request to move is being opposed not only by her former partner, Ms. Halifax, but also by a gay male couple. According to the newspaper story, this couple “cannot be named,” but one of them is apparently the donor for the other child, which would mean he is Mr. Dalton. An Australian court has determined that she should not move while the requests of the various parties are considered. Continue reading
I just sat down to write this entry, inspired by this morning’s Today Show and lo, I found I had already used my title. Six months ago I wrote about another wrong embryo case, but I guess I’d forgotten. Just goes to show that, as I said in that earlier post, accidents will happen.
Anyway, here is the story from this AM: Carolyn and Sean Savage had used IVF to conceive their third child. They had left-over embryos which were frozen. They decided they wanted to try to have a fourth child and so went to have the embryos thawed and transferred.
A pregnancy resulted. But it turned out the clinic had used the wrong embryos–embryos that had been prepared and stored for some other couple. Somehow this came to light quite quickly (though obviously not quickly enough) and so the news of the error arrived along with the news that Carolyn was pregnant. Continue reading
I think I’d best start this post with a series of forceful disclaimers. I’m going to comment on the story that has riveted many people the last few days, that of Jaycee Dugard, who was kidnapped and held more or less captive for 18 years by Phillip Garrido.
So here are my disclaimers. Given the little I know about what happened, I think it was truly horrific. I have no sympathy for Garrido. I do not think his actions become defensible because of the passage for time. Additionally, from what I’ve read, I think Dugard coped with an impossible situation incredibly well. She was 11 when she was kidnapped. She was forcibly raped and bore two children in this fashion. She lived in a primitive jail for most of the time.
Now all that said, I’m struck by one paragraph in the NYT story I linked to: Continue reading