This week, Professor Robert Edwards has been issued a Nobel prize for his (and his partner, the deceased Dr. Patrick Steptoe) pioneering work in developing invitro fertilization over 30 years ago.
Via Washington Post:
Robert G. Edwards’s breakthrough development of in vitro fertilization, which led to the birth of the first “test-tube baby,” Louise Brown, in 1978, gave humanity the power to do what previously was considered the province of God: create and manipulate human life.
In the ensuing decades, the pioneering techniques that won the British biologist a Nobel Prize on Monday have played a part in controversial scientific advances such as cloning and the creation of human embryonic stem cells while redefining fundamental social roles such as what it means to be a parent or a family.
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“The impact on society has been profound,” said Lori B. Andrews of the Chicago-Kent College of Law, who studies reproductive technologies. “The creation of a child outside the body for the first time has had scientific and personal implications far, far beyond the 4 million children who have been born through in vitro fertilization.”
IVF has been crucial for human embryonic stem cell research because the cells are obtained from embryos left over at infertility clinics. At the same time, the techniques helped lay the groundwork for the 1996 cloning of Dolly the sheep, a procedure that could eventually be tried in humans.
“In exploring the fundamental mechanisms of how human reproduction actually works, Edwards unleashed a social, ethical and cultural tsunami that he could not have predicted and I don’t think anyone at the time could have anticipated,” said Arthur Caplan, a University of Pennsylvania bioethicist. “It opened so many doors that I’m not sure we even fully appreciate it today.”
Of course, not everyone appreciates those advances in medicine, nor approve of the Nobel committee awarding it to the doctor. Namely, the Vatican.
The Vatican press office meanwhile released a statement by the International Federation of Catholic Medic Association (FIAC) which described their “disappointment” after the announcement of the award on Monday.
The Vatican’s top medical ethics official, Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, already criticised the decision in comments on Monday that blamed Edwards for creating a market in embryos and failing to protect human life.
Despite the “happiness” IVF has brought “to many couples,” the FIAC association said it deplored “the use of human beings as animals for experimentation and then destruction.
“It has created a culture where they are seen as useful means to an end, rather than the precious individual humans that they are,” it added.
Few people are taking the Vatican’s poo-pooing on the prize to heart, however. Tom Chivers of the Telegraph writes:
What is sad, though, is the response by a Vatican spokesman to Prof Edwards’ award. “I find the choice of Robert Edwards completely out of order”, says Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life. I can only assume the “out of order” is an odd translation – I doubt the Monsignor really talks like a drunk Phil Mitchell – but the sentiment is unmistakeable.
“In the best of cases they are transferred into a uterus but most probably they will end up abandoned or dead, which is a problem for which the new Nobel prize winner is responsible,” he told the Italian news agency Ansa. Without Prof Edwards, “there would not be a large number of freezers filled with embryos in the world”. Well, no. But there would be millions of heartbroken would-be mothers and fathers, and four million fewer babies born. He did praise the “new and important chapter in the field of human reproduction” that Prof Edwards had ushered in, but essentially, the Monsignor has pronounced this a mistake.
I don’t know if the mismatch between Church teaching on things like IVF and homosexuality, which are so at odds with most young people’s beliefs and experiences, is behind the collapse in religious belief. But I wouldn’t be surprised. Their position sets them directly against people having families and falling in love. That is unlikely to be a popular stance.
Ironically, there’s one country who is probably willing to cheer for Edwards’s Nobel Prize: Taiwan. Their birth rate has dropped so badly that subsidizing IVF is one of the ways they are considering bringing it back up.
From AsiaOne News:
The Bureau of Health Promotion (BHP) under the Cabinet-level Department of Health is assessing the feasibility of subsidising in-vitro fertilization and artificial insemination, in a bid to boost the birth rate, which has been on the steady decline, the bureau’s director general Chiu Shu-ti said.
Chiu said that the subsidy program, once approved for infertile couples, is expected to help boost the number of newborns by at least 2,000 per year.
Chiu said that her bureau has worked out two draft subsidy programs for IVF and artificial insemination for review by the Population Policy Committee of the Ministry of the Interior.
One program calls for the government to grant each infertile couple an annual subsidy of NT$50,000 (S$2,115) for IVF treatment or artificial insemination, which will cost the national coffers around NT$500 million a year.
The other proposal requires the government to offer a subsidy of NT$150,000 per year, and will cost NT$2.2 billion.
Mini Roundup: Broadsheet thinks there’s a lot of comedy potential in the Colorado Fetal Personhood movement. Laughs are likely all there will be, as polling shows the amendment is very much likely to fail. Again. I guess we’ll see it again in 2012.
October 5, 2010
- Solon seeks probe of ‘cancer-causing’ contraceptives – GMANews.TV
- Maternal influenza vaccination linked to flu protection in infants – Oneindia
- Girls need the right to confidential reproductive care – Minnesota Public Radio
- Advocates Praise Shift Toward Evidence-Based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs – Medical News Today (press release)
- David Hovde column: Election brings out some stupidity – Appleton Post Crescent
- Wisconsin abortions increased 3.8% in 2009 – Oshkosh Northwestern
- Aquino to Meet Other Sects – Manila Bulletin
- White House phasing out abstinence ed? – OneNewsNow
- ‘Dear Parents’ … – OneNewsNow
- The offensive against a woman’s right to choose – The Guardian (Australia)
- Standing by the Catholic Church – Manila Standard Today
- House to double Aquino’s P1b family planning fund – Manila Standard Today
- B.C. government sues makers of Evra birth control patch – Vancouver Sun
- Event targets stigmas on sexual orientation, mental illness – Yakima Herald-Republic
- OUR VIEW: State sex education should go beyond abstinence – Oklahoma Daily
- Americans are branching out sexually, survey finds – Los Angeles Times
- LGBTO to host bag lunch meetings – MU The Parthenon
- Gay Teen Suicides, Bullying and Christianity: A Talk with the Trevor Project … – Huffington Post (blog)
- Commentary: Planning the family – Philippine Information Agency
- Church exec: ‘Sincerity’ key to resolving RH issue – GMANews.TV
- 52000 die during childbirth annually – NEXT
- Catholics voice out opposing views on RH issue – GMANews.TV
- Women can take steps to prevent cervical cancer – PennLive.com
- ‘Teen Mom’ signals demise of America – The Independent Florida Alligator
October 4, 2010
- LGBT advocates criticize LDS apostle’s remarks – Salt Lake Tribune
- Protests target court abortion case – TVNZ
- Civil libertarians to discuss Cairns abortion case – ABC Online
- Target, Best Buy and 3M Lose Gay Rights Group’s Top Rating – DailyFinance
- Colorado Poll Shows Personhood Amendment 62 Likely Losing by Large Margin – LifeNews.com
- A campaign to end ties between Catholic colleges and abortion providers – Spero
- Bellingham businesses not affiliated with anti-abortion protest – Bellingham Herald
- Your Opinions – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
- Pennsylvania Bill Filed to Stop the Abortion Funding ObamaCare Nearly Allowed – LifeNews.com
- Doctor charged with pointing handgun at abortion protestors – TriCities.com
- Protecting newborns from HIV: Portland researchers see potential in … – OregonLive.com
- Buckhannon Honors Breast Cancer Survivors – WDTV
- Experts Fear Economic Downturn Is Impacting HIV/AIDS Programs – Voice of America
- From abstinence to ‘safe sex’ ed – WVLT
- Anti-abortion Group Backs Haley For Governor – WKRG-TV
- Texas Forgoes Federal Funds for Comprehensive Sex Ed – Texas Tribune (blog)
- Judson to spend $850000 on sex education – WOAI
- Herpes Vaccine Found Ineffective – AIDSmeds.com HIV/AIDS Treatment News
- Anti-abortion group backs Haley for governor – Myrtle Beach Sun News
- Church might split on family planning – Inquirer.net
- UW sex professor: Communication is key – MyNorthwest.com
- Maternal influenza vaccination may be associated with flu protection in infants – EurekAlert (press release)
- http://www.aolnews.com Mormon Leaders Reaffirm Stance Against Gay Marriage – AOL News
- Anti-abortion case back in court – Newstalk ZB
- County gets pregnancy ed funding – McMinnville News-Register
- New study reveals birth control pills bring neurological side effects – Cornerline News
- Replenish the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria – Huffington Post (blog)
- Christian Right Getting Tough on Divorce – The AtlanticWire (blog)
- Sexual Behavior Spans a Broad Spectrum, New Survey Says – Medscape
- Farewell, Abstinence-Only Sex Education: Teen Mothers Don’t Salute You – Houston Press (blog)
- Breast Cancer Awareness Month – ABC 4
- An open letter to religious leaders on gay youth suicides: it’s time to act … – Washington Post (blog)
- Meg Brown, Grand Forks, letter: Sex ed and birth control, not prayer and fasting – Grand Forks Herald
- Health Reform Is in the Making, Starting Now – WomensRadio
- Ballard students offer messages of acceptance to gay youth – Ballard News Tribune
- Plan to Expand State Medicaid Coverage Includes Birth Control to 15-Year-Olds – WHBL Sheboygan
- Mapping HIV/STI behavioural surveillance in Europe – 7thSpace Interactive (press release)
- HHS Awards $3.5 Million to expand HIV/AIDS care capacity for Minorities – GLTNewsNow
- Recent winners of the Nobel Prize in medicine – The Associated Press
- Filipino Bishops Caution Government Over Artificial Birth Control Stance – AHN | All Headline News
- The comedy of “fetal personhood” – Salon
- Abortion Measure Draws Some Religious Opposition – cbs4denver.com
- Meet the woman whose cancer cells helped save millions of lives – Sify
- How to Teach Blind and Deaf Kids About Sex – Jakarta Globe
- question of the day: What films deal well with teenage boys and sex? – Flick Filosopher (blog)
- Elections are likely to trim number of women in Congress – Dailyrecord.com
- AFGHANISTAN: Limited progress on maternal health – Tom Wilt News
- Lack of Health Insurance Affects Survival in Uterine Cancer – eMaxHealth
- Palace, Church OK Ceasefire – Manila Bulletin