Posted by: Chris Cole | March 13, 2010

IVF… because… because… just BECAUSE, okay?

Our intrepid Federal Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon, has said that she would be personally very uncomfortable with allowing IVF parents to select the gender of their pyrex-spawned offspring, but has at least been sensible enough to make explicit the difference between her personal opinion, and any official government decision on the matter. (Which is something of a refreshing change, when compared to say, some of Tony Abbott’s comments and decisions as Federal Health Minister in times gone by).

Interestingly, though, while a non-medically trained, non-scientist politician is found making quite a reasonable and balanced comment on the proposal, it’s remarkable to see Professor Gab Kovacs, a “leading” IVF specialist (who really should know better) come out with the following pearls of wisdom:

“There are a small number of couples who are so determined they want a child of a particular sex, they’re prepared to go for the cost and the difficulty of IVF to get pregnant, rather than just do it naturally,” he said.

“I can’t see any reason why it should be forbidden. I’ve seen a number of couples who have maybe three or four children of one particular sex and they’re very keen on family balancing. That’s the type of couple that most often ask about sex selection.”

Indeed. So, firstly this guy is happy advocating the use of IVF when it is blatantly totally unnecessary, as the couple could conceive normally anyway. Secondly, he also sees it as perfectly reasonable that couples who already have three or four children should be able to make use of IVF to have yet another child, purely in order to balance out the set and presumably make use of all of those unluckily chosen baby gifts that turned out to be blue rather than pink, or vice versa.

Perhaps it’s a little much to expect a totally balanced opinion from someone who makes a very lucrative living by catering to such people (it’s a little hard to refer to them as patients in this context without being disingenuous), so in the interests of pointing out what should be blatantly obvious to anyone with a working brain, and doubly so to someone who allegedly holds a medical degree and higher specialist qualifications:

1. The world is already, by any reasonable measure, grossly overpopulated. Quite sensible arguments can be made for never using IVF, however strong humanitarian arguments can also be made for employing it in cases of infertility amenable to circumvention by this technology.

2. The use of such vast and expensive resources by couples who have no fertility problem purely because they want a child of a specific gender is egregiously self-indulgent and an obvious waste of time, expertise and money that could be used to alleviate real suffering.

3. Anyone who advocates the use of IVF for couples who already have “three or four” children, and especially if it’s ostensibly purely for “family balancing”, is demonstrating extremely poor judgement, on several counts.

If anyone can provide a sound ethical argument for (a) using IVF when no fertility problems are present, or (b) using IVF when a couple already has 3 or more children, I would be delighted to hear it.

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