Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Facts and figures: on I.V.F. success rates and the number of embryos in cryostorage


Here are some interesting data on I.V.F. success rates, from Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald:

The president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Ted Weaver, said there was a misconception that assisted reproductive technology was a fail-safe back-up plan because success rates drop significantly with age.

Figures show that the live birth rate for women under 35 undergoing IVF is 31 per cent. This falls below 5 per cent for women over 42.
[my emphasis]
Quite aside from the moral objections to I.V.F. then, why are taxpayers required to fund elective procedures for which there is barely a statistically significant chance of success?

And in the Herald’s Good Weekend magazine from two Saturdays ago I read the following information:

[…] Accurate figures about frozen embryos are scarce but a 2006 survey by the National Perinatal Statistics Unit, based on information supplied by 57 IVF clinics around the country, found there were 118,709 embryos in cryostorage. Most, just over 90 per cent, were in “transit”, the clinics claimed, earmarked for future patient use in another cycle; 5.6 per cent were earmarked for donation to research; 2.7 per cent for disposal; and only 1 per cent for donation to another couple.
[Maybe Baby, Fenella Souter, The Sydney Morning
’s Good Weekend magazine, June 13, 2009, p. 19]
And it was interesting to read about the experiences of the poster-couple, so to speak, for that article:

Despite the Christian community’s notions about human life beginning at fertilization, and in spite of the Archibalds’ personal view against abortion, in the end they chose to discard the embryos. For us, there wasn’t an issue with destroying embryos because there wasn’t a heart,” she says. “They were only four cells. A heart, I think, is your soul; that’s how we viewed it.” She [Jan Archibald, wife of Lindsay] didn’t see it as taking away life. “They wouldn’t have existed outside a body anyway.” … After the viewing, the Archibalds poured the contents of the Petri dishes into a potted azalea that they’d brought with them. They took the bush home, waited for spring and planted it in the backyard. They got on with their lives, happy to have closed the book on IVF.
[ibid., p. 19]
“A heart, I think, is your soul”; that’s a new one. That’s just their intuition, is it? What is their basis for that notion? And the article’s author offered the following observation:

Yet it [an embryo] is not a body, or anything like it, with a body’s years of lived experience and conscious-ness, with a name and, once, a personality. But is it something more than just a bunch of cells?
[ibid., p. 21]
But if an embryo is not a human body then what is?! What is it other than a human body at an early stage of development? And if we’re going to be strict materialists, then are any of us ‘more than just bunches of cells’?

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Vigil of St. John the Baptist, A.D. 2009