Thursday, February 5, 2009

How Far Will It Go?

Here's a story for you. A 60 year-old woman has just given birth to twins in Calgary. My thoughts below, may be offensive to some, so I apologize now if that's the case. Maybe stop reading now if you prefer. But I still want to share.

Now I have no problems with older people having children. If you get pregnant then that's life, and God be with you. And I have no problem with older people choosing to raise kids either. I am aware of a semi-retired couple that has just adopted their grandchild because their daughter is incapable of caring for the child who is fighting an infant addiction to many hard drugs. I think it's not only commendable what they are doing, but I also pray fervently that God will be with them and bless them in this incredibly hard task.

What I have been thinking about recently is the assisted pregnancy our country has normalized. Now this takes many forms, from simply helping the parents gametes not fight each other off, to in vitro fertilization with ones own embryos, to the same IVF but with donor embryos, etc. So many variables. I am not necessarily against them all. I have a friend who is currently carrying the child of a couple who was unable to get pregnant themselves. She has done an honourable thing, and I am proud of her, but I still question (not 'decided') the ethics of it all.

Paul said everything is permissible, but not all things are beneficial. Just cause we can, doesn't mean we should. The medical world has jumped leaps and bounds in the last 30 years in what can be done for assisted pregnancy, which is great for science. But is it right?

The two main concerns I have are (and notice I'm staying away from the theological - just don't know regarding that):

1) What about adoption? Are there not enough children in our world that if having a child is hard for us, can't we try loving and caring for another's natural child? Two friends that have adopted have shared interesting thoughts with me recently. The first is a woman who adopted after having multiple miscarriages. She says she knows her children (3) were born in her heart, and she regularly forgets they were not born of her body as well. Interesting. The second is a friend who made the choice to adopt rather than have natural children (which he and his wife use careful protection to inhibit). He says he is shocked and saddened that people always presume and offer apology for the fact that they can't have 'natural' children and HAVE to adopt. Some people even suggest IVF as a better option. His experience shows that adoption is sometimes even frowned upon, including in the church community. What?!

As people who have decided to walk down the road of adoption and see where God takes us, JL and I are excited to learn about what God is going to do through us and teach us in this somewhat isolated community. I'm excited as to how it will further influence my thoughts on IVF and other assisted pregnancy options.

2) Healthcare costs. Having children is expensive. In every way. It is very expensive for our healthcare system. But our country desires for our nation to produce more children, so it's worth it. It's always worth it.

However, the cost exponentially increases with children who have health irregularities at birth or who are premature. And with assisted pregnancies, the chances of these goes up exponentially as well. IVF regularly (around 50%) results in multiple pregnancies (twins+), which almost always result in pre-term births (the rate of preterm births in multiple births babies is 17 times higher than single babies). In Canada, a normal weight, single birth child costs our system about $1000 by the time it goes home (after a couple days). With additional health concerns for pre-term babies, the cost goes up quickly. It is suggested a pre-term baby born before 6 months costs well over $100,000 to our system before it leaves the hospital. The average cost for per-term babies was a lot less however, but still 12 times the normal cost at over $12,000.

Now sometimes per-term births cannot be avoided, and I obviously believe we need to care for any child born in Canada. But, should we look at controlling IVF and other assisted pregnancy options that regularly (over 80%) lead to pre-term and/or multiple births? Or what about the woman in the above article, who was deemed too old to be eligible for IVF in Canada, so went and paid for it in India and then returned to Canada for the free care? Does the taxpayer have the obligation to care for these people? Well, ethically, yes. But should we look into it a bit more. I think so.

Well, those are some of my thoughts. I think this will gradually become more and more of a concern for Canada (especially with universal health care) and you'll see it as a hot topic on a political stage near you. Best to do some research and get your opinion ready cause someone may be asking for it soon.

Sorry again if I offend anyone. Please be gracious.

Here are some resources you may found valuable in thinking through this all:
Recent Can. Press article
Article on recent Canadian Institute for Health Study
Victoria's Fertility Centre


Anonymous said...

As a woman who is currently pregnant using donor embryos, I don't find your thoughts offensive. What I do think is that some of your information is a little too simplistic.
On your first point: adoption. My husband and I tried to have a biological child for three years with no success. We grieved the loss of having a child with our coupled DNA and moved on to adoption. We completed our homestudies, put our names on domestic lists and registered with Social Services with the hope that we would be chosen as parents for a child in need of a family. We were told that Social Services liked to find "cultural matches" for the children in need and because we were Caucasian, we didn't fit the bill to adopt many of the children in foster care. We were selected by a birthmother who was 35 weeks pregnant and were elated. The day she gave birth, we were at the hospital and ready to receive our child. The birthmother changed her mind and we were devastated. We waited for another 2 years on those lists before moving on to International Adoption. We didn't qualify for South Korea's strict health standards and other programs (except China) were full for many years. To China we turned. The wait is now more than 5 years from log in to referral. After an already long battle, we will be well into our forties before we bring a child home. Adoption is not for the faint of heart and is not the easy answer.
Personally, I am tired of good people like us bearing the brunt of people's judgment concerning how we come to be a family. If we are so concerned about the rising costs of healthcare, why not attack those who buy cigarettes on their way to their chemotherapy sessions? Why not attack obese people who stop for donuts on their way home from open heart surgery.
I think there are some good practices in IVF and some unethical practices (as in every profession). But with increased knowledge of the health of blastocyst transfers versus 3 day transfers, embryologists are able to reduce the incidence of multiple births by choosing one of two of the best developed embryos to transfer on day 5. It is VERY difficult to find any doctor worth his or her salt who will transfer more than 2 embryos during any cycle.
I hope that I have been as respectful in my comment as you were in your post. It's important to keep this dialogue open and non-confrontational.

AJ Renton said...

Thanks Miss Conception. I really do appreciate your comments, addition to the conversation, and willingness to dialogue with grace.

Your points are well taken, and I do agree with most of them. I have entered into this conversation just recently (the last few years) as my wife and I have approached, parenthood through natural and adoption means. I have trusted friends who I am proud of and support in all stages of the 'reproductive world' and am definitely not criticizing any one well thought out position. It is the unethical and unthoughtful I am questioning. Things like multiple embryos implantation (like the 8 in the recent case in California!).

I pray your children grow up strong and healthy and your family may be a blessing to our world.

Shawna said...

I have to agree with some restraint though. I only say this based on the octuplets mom in California...she has 6 OTHER kids until 8 and they were all assisted...was no one monitoring this!?! This woman lives with her parents and how has 14 is she to provide for them. She expects free handouts from companies and she is not going to get them. It's $1.2 million for the health care of the 8 preemies....and that's just now! This is a woman who needs psychological intervention a LONG time ago. The use of assistance for pregnancy is definitely something that needs a tighter watch.