Mostrnpeople still remember the story of Nadya Suleman, dubbed “Octomom,” a singlernwoman who used in vitro fertilizationrnto become pregnant with eight babies simultaneously. Suleman had asked herrnfertility specialist, Dr. Michael Kamrava, to implant at least a dozen embryosrninto her uterus, leading to the birth of the famous octuplets in 2009. Dr.rnKamrava’s medical license was later revoked by the California Medical Board. Inrncommenting on the case, Judith Alvarado, Deputy Attorney General in California,rnconcluded that Dr. Kamrava had acted “like a cowboy” in ignoring fertilityrnindustry guidelines.
Whenrnit comes to the “wild west” of infertility — a field of medicine with littlernoversight and unbridled profit margins — there are a lot of cowboys out there.
Recentlyrnthere was the case of Kelli Rowlette who, after having her own DNA analyzed inrn2017 through a genealogy website, shockingly discovered that her biologicalrnfather was actually a fertility specialist who had once treated her mother.rnWithout her mother’s knowledge or consent, the specialist had used his ownrnsperm to impregnate her, while falsely claiming he was using a mixture of spermrnfrom her husband (who had low sperm count) and a donor who was supposed to havernbeen an anonymous university student with features similar to her husband.
Anotherrninfamous case involved Bertold Wiesner who, back in the 1940s, established arnfertility clinic in London to help women struggling to conceive. His clinicrnsupposedly relied on a small number of highly intelligent men to serve as spermrndonors for artificial insemination, with more than 1500 babies being born. Morernthan seventy years later, based on DNA testing of people who had been conceivedrnat the clinic, it turned out that as many as 600 of the babies born may havernrelied on sperm from Mr. Wiesner himself.
Therernwas also the troubling story of Dr. Cecil Jacobson of Fairfax County, Virginia.rnHe was accused of a "purposeful pattern of deceit" during the 1980’srnwhen he fathered up to 75 children using his own sperm for artificialrninsemination with his female patients. He was eventually sentenced to fivernyears in prison and had his medical license revoked.
Anotherrnnotorious episode relied on DNA testing and other evidence gathered by policernin Brazil. They discovered that many of the 8,000 babies born after IVFrntreatments at the clinic of Dr. Roger Abdelmassih in Sao Paulo were notrngenetically related to the couples who were raising them. Authorities believernthat Abdelmassih misled many of his clients during the 1990s and early 2000srnand impregnated them with embryos formed from other people’s eggs and sperm, inrna bid to improve his clinic’s statistics for successful implantations andrnbirths.
Yetrnanother nefarious incident involved Doctors Ricardo Asch, Jose Bulmaceda andrnSergio Stone, three fertility specialists and faculty members at the Universityrnof California at Irvine who ran a campus fertility clinic during the 1990s.rnThey were accused of fertilizing eggs they had harvested from women andrnimplanting the resulting embryos into unrelated women, as well as selling somernof the embryos to scientists and researchers. Dozens of women and couples filedrnlawsuits against the doctors and the university.
Onernof the reasons these acts of deception by fertility specialists are sornoffensive to us is that we realize how the procreation of our own children isrnmeant to involve a strict exclusivity between husband and wife. Whenever wernviolate that exclusivity by hiring outsiders to produce our offspring inrnclinics, or engage strangers to provide their sex cells for these procedures,rnunthinkable outcomes become possible.
Thernplethora of these cases also reminds us how many of the cavalier approaches tornhuman procreation being promoted by the fertility industry are unethical atrntheir core. We are witnessing an unprecedented burgeoning of laboratoryrntechniques for manufacturing human life, many of which are deeply antagonisticrnto human dignity and contrary to the parental obligations assumed by spousesrnwhen they marry.
Thernnatural exclusivity intended in parenthood is meant to afford protection, securityrnabout our origins, and the safety of the home hearth. In the headlong rush tornachieve a pregnancy at any price, many couples, regrettably, are allowingrnhawkish businessmen to manipulate their sex cells, create their children inrnglassware, store them in frozen orphanages, and even discard them like medicalrnwaste.
Therntragic fallout of these decisions should reignite our natural moralrnsensibilities, and point us back in the direction of the Creator’s plan forrnhuman procreation. Our children are truly safeguarded in the dignity of theirrnorigins when they are brought into the world exclusively within the maritalrnembrace of husband and wife. Turning to the lawlessness of modern day fertilityrn“cowboys,” meanwhile, is a quick study for violation and heartache.
Rev.rnTadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D. earned his doctorate in neuroscience from Yale andrndid post-doctoral work at Harvard. He is a priest of the diocese of Fall River,rnMA, and serves as the Director of Education at The National Catholic BioethicsrnCenter in Philadelphia. See www.ncbcenter.org