Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Prof. Savulescu on the morality of menopause prediction and ovum freezing

Occasionally one sees references in the mainstream media to medical ethics expert Professor Julian Savulescu, so I wish to keep for future reference the following excerpts from an article entitled "Welcome to the new ice age" and which appeared in the Health section of one of the supplements in The Weekend Australian two Saturdays ago (the relevant page was unnumbered, apparently page ten of that supplement) (I also include the article's first paragraph as background):

SEX for fun. Technology for procreation. Judging by findings presented this week in Rome, this sci-fi scenario is not only plausible, it would be welcomed by women keen to sidestep the dictates of biology.

[...] Julian Savulescu, a medical ethics expert based at the universities of Oxford and Melbourne, reflects the meeting's tone: "I believe we have a moral imperative to offer women egg freezing to achieve equality."

[...] Healy is also sceptical about claims Iranian doctors made at the conference that they can predict menopause from a simple blood test. "Other studies at this conference have found menopause testing was no better predictor of menopause than the women's age alone."

But if such tests are developed, Savulescu welcomes them. "With this information, you can plan pregnancy, your family and possibly freezing eggs for later use. Both egg freezing and menopause predictions are liberty and autonomy enhancing."

Savulescu adds that many concerns raised about freezing eggs for use by older women -- such as risks for the mother and implications for the child -- also apply to IVF treatment, which is routinely offered to older women.

He argues that preventing women using their eggs when older is sexual discrimination since men have no time limit on when they can father children.

Savulescu cites British IVF pioneer Robert Edwards's assessment: "If a man of 60 fathers a baby, then we buy him a drink and toast his health at the pub. But it's totally different with a woman of the same age."

Yet older women may be in a much better position financially and emotionally to care for their child, says Savulescu, noting that the arguments for egg freezing go beyond biology, as Nekkebroeck's and Gorthis's findings suggest.

"We should proactively seek to change this situation to ensure women have the opportunity to pursue a career as they choose, rather than having to fit into a model designed without them in mind."


Reginaldvs Cantvar