There is a long story in today’s NYT which, while somewhat off-topic, illustrates the problematic role of money in a lot of the ART stuff I discuss here. It’s about the commodification of breast milk. While the story bears reading, the critical point to understand is that there is an emerging industry–and I do mean industry–built around processing breast milk. One person calls it “white plasma”–which for me seems to echo the designation of oil as “black gold.”
There are doubtless many reasons why the industrialization of breast milk is disturbing even as its potential to save or enhance the lives of premature infants is clearly beneficial. I just want to focus on one thing, though, and it has to do with money.
Human breast milk can only be obtained from one source–women. The question raised in the article–and the one I want to think about here– is whether women should be paid to produce breast milk. It’s easy for me to see the two sides. Continue reading
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
This is spurred by a substantial article in this morning’s NYT. I haven’t talked/written about surrogacy for quite a while and so perhaps it is time to circle back to the topic. I’m well aware that there is some extensive discussion under the last post (the one about birth certificates), but I lost track of that while I was travelling and this seems timely. I can only hope I’ll get back to the birth certificates shortly.
So surrogacy. There are so many things to say about it, so much to discuss. I’m going to pick a few points that leapt out at me reading the article. There are many others.
1. Surrogates prefer working with gay men than with straight couples (or I assume with single women.) 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
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
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
This seems a reasonably good follow-up to a post about the egg market from a couple of days ago. I’ll start with some background which you can probably skip if the market for gametes is a subject you are familiar with.
I’ve written a lot about sperm and egg donors here, and about the market for gametes. It’s clear that there are important differences between the market for eggs and that for sperm. Historically one difference has been is that sperm has been banked–collected and frozen for later use–while eggs have not been.
If you stop to think about it, there are many ramifications of this difference. Because you can bank sperm there are independent entities that do nothing but collect, store and sell sperm. Continue reading
Here’s a recent story that revisits some familiar ground. I’ve written before (a number of times though not for quite a while) about the market for gametes in the US. This story reports a recent study that shows that many US organizations recruiting egg donors aren’t adhering to ethical standards. That’s something that ought to worry us, I think.
As the article notes:
Ethical standards set forth by the ASRM specify that donors should be at least 21 years old, and those between ages 18 and 20 should receive a psychiatric evaluation first.
Also, women are not to be paid for their eggs but compensated, equally, for their time. Donor traits such as college grades or previous successful donations should not result in higher payment.
I’m going to focus on the concerns underlying the second paragraph. It seems to me that for many people the idea that women are being compensated for their time and not their eggs seems non-obvious. Continue reading