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Discussion: What are your thoughts on the brave new world of reproductive choices and technologies?
waiting for birth

Dear FRONTLINE,

I appeared in this show. Since then, I have been approached by different people; many have wished me luck and have even spoken to me about thier experiences with infertility. Others had questions about costs and my experience being infertile. It has been quite remarkable the people I have met from many different walks of life since this show aired.

I hope you do a follow-up program about those couples featured in the show.

Thanks for addressing such a sensitive and controversial topic.

Arelys Soto-Lugo
Levittown, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

I beleive it is quite unfair for anyone to assume

to be God.

If the scientists, political leaders, philanthropists, and the like would stop trying to control human beings Divine right over our own bodies then there would be no: planned parenthood, artificial insemination, or government coerced reproductive choices etc. But there would be people in predominant control of their own bodies.

Carolyn Coe
Atlanta, Georgia

Dear FRONTLINE,

As two of the in vitro patients you interviewed in last week's program, we are concerned that your emphasis on the more sensationalist aspects of fertility treatment and your focus on unusual cases, while making for provacative television, may do a disservice to the vast majority of otherwise healthy and conventional couples who require treatment in order to fulfill their dream of starting a family.

For this majority, it is not about choosing a donor for superficial appearance or a gestational carrier for convenience - two examples your show made use of. It is about the primal urge to bring life into the world and to nurture - a dream so fundamental that most of us take for granted the ability to realize it. It is devastating to find that without medical attention one cannot do so.

While we appreciate the attention you have given to this rapidly burgeoning medical field, we hope that aspects of the program will not merely serve to inflame the existing fears and rumors surrounding assisted reproduction.

The implication that at-risk multiple and premature births are a common occurrence in IVF we found to be particularly disconcerting; in fact, recent medical advances have enabled doctors to virtually eliminate this rare and unfortunate situation. Also, playing into people's fears about the "science fiction" aspects of reproductive possibilities may quell further potential breakthroughs which are crucial to many of us. The terms can sound ominous, yet research on nuclear or cytoplasmic transfer is most emphatically not a sinister step toward cloning; it could enable a woman with premature ovarian failure to have a biological child with her husband just like any traditional family.

It is our hope that responsible and informative media coverage of this complex and often controversial topic will lead to heightened public awareness of the need for better regulation of profit-driven clinics, more funding for medical research and expanded health coverage for the many who desperately need it.

Elinore Hollinshead
New York, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am distressed at the tone of most of this discussion. The lack of ethics shown by the infertility industry is in no way the fault of infertile couples, it is the infertility industry.

There are two tragedies here: The pain of infertility is usually a natural tragedy. The pain of infant death & disablility is caused by irresponsible fertility research, clinics and doctors that produce an abundance of multiple births. No one can blame infertile couples who use any means they can to link the human chain of the generations. But I do not want my HMO and tax dollars spent on expensive and experimental infertility treatments or treating the complications & heartbreaks that often accompany multiples. If we, as a society, are going to go forward with fertility treatment, we must be much more vigilant in avoiding the production of multiples. These smallest and most vulnerable of lives deserve the best opportunity starting out in the world, a womb of their own.

Place the blame where it belongs, on the folks who profit from maximizing the chances of pregnancy by allowing multiples without asking couples about their feelings about selective abortion.

Cheltenham, PA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I believe genetics is an eye opening field of science. I believe it has helped a lot, specifically, in the areas of medicine and agriculture. Yet, I have to say that it is dangerous. We are getting into deep waters. Lots of knowledge is now available to us. If this kind of knowledge and information falls into the wrong hands, who knows what might happen to us. Thank you for your attention.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Dear FRONTLINE,

My 'personal' experiences with the lack of oversight and regulation of fertility clinics and protection for patients led to the formation of the New England Patients' Rights Group in Norwood, MA.

I've followed the growth of this multibillion dollar unregulated industry since its inception. The bottom line is that ethical quandries and experimentation have been sanctioned under the "guise" of infertility.

Do these technologies assist people with diagnosed fertility problems achieve a birth using their own eggs and sperm? For years, the programs have been allowed to excuse their poor success rates by blaming the fertility problems of the couple! For older people, it's the standard, "your 'eggs' are too old" even though some of these women go on to have a baby without treatment following IVF. What about all the young people who don't have 'old' eggs who are unsuccessful using these technologies? Where are the statistics?

The industry marketed the idea of taking eggs from younger fertile women as a way to increase their deplorable success rate and to keep the baby making business booming. At first, women were encouraged to ask a relative to donate an egg. The market then necessitated the need to pay women to 'sell' their eggs. Without the use of these so called 'donor' eggs and financial incentives, I don't believe fertility programs would be in business. The ethical issues should not be decided by this industry whose motive is profit and experimentation and not the health and well-being of the people involved or the children created. Breeding for profit and perfection will lead to 'eugenics.' Paying college co-eds up to $50,000 to take powerful drugs of which the long-term consequences are unknown and to undergo invasive procedures to retrieve their eggs to sell is exploitation. People who understand the ramifications and the semantics that have been created by the industry to soften the effect of their tampering are appalled. We've been led to believe that the births result in happy endings. The final chapter cannot be written until the ramifications of this tampering which has already crossed sacred boundaries are revealed. On May 27, 1999 it was reported by the Associated Press that a bill in Italy would restrict fertility treatment. It's time for the United States to address this issue before it's too late.

Linda DeBenedictis
Norwood, MA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Although your program overall was informative and well-produced, I am very disappointed you focused on the extreme examples of people who need assisted reproductive technologies in order to reproduce.

I don't want a designer baby, and I don't want to break any records for delivering the most babies in a single pregnancy. I just want one, healthy child who is like my husband, the smartest, kindest, most loving man I've ever known, and best friend I've ever had.

Unfortunately, a common infection that was misdiagnosed by our doctor robbed us of the chance to create that child in a loving and intimate moment. Was that God's will? Or is it God's will that we found an outstanding group of physicians and scientists who can help us to have a child together, and have parents who are willing to lend us the money to buy the medical care our insurance has arbitrarily decided is not medically necessary?

It amazes me that people think it is OK to make childless couples pay a greater proportion of their income to subsidize income tax deductions enjoyed by families, fund programs to help teen and unwed mothers and finance the public school system, but become incredulous when it is suggested that health insurance cover the disabling disease of infertility.

And for anyone who suggests those who are infertile should adopt the children who are orphaned or are in foster care instead of trying to have their own, I only ask that you pose that same question to everyone, including those who can conceive at the drop of a hat. Why is it that they are rewarded by society for their fertility, while we are vilified?

Pittsburgh, PA

Dear FRONTLINE,

While I thought your show was interesting and provided good discussion about ethical issues surrounding reproductive technology, I am compelled to write because I do not believe the show is representative of what the thousands of couples undergoing infertility treatment experience.

Unfortunately, the media has given inordinate attention to extreme stories surrounding infertility and reproductive technology like the Iowa septuplets which, by the way, were not conceived using IVF but fertility medication to which this woman overresponded and was told NOT to have intercourse due to risk of high-order multiples. Your show did more of the same by focusing on high-order multiples, genetic problems, and homosexual couples.

Infertility is a common problem today, affecting up to 1 in 6 couples. Artificial insemination, IUI, and IVF can help couples have a healthy child. Statistically, children born through IVF have NO higher risk of birth defects than children conceived naturally.

I have endometrosis, a common disorder affecting up to 1 in 7 women of childbearing age. Endometrosis is the leading cause of infertility. I am thankful that IVF may allow me to have a child.

Most of us going through IVF are average couples simply trying to have a baby, seeking medical assistance at respected, responsible clinics. IVF provides a solution to a common medical problem. Infertile couples have a right to make decisions regarding treatment, as we all do with other medical problems, such as colds, cancer, and erectile dysfunction. Insurance is a shared cost which pays for all of these treatments, even though most of us will not need it.

Please do a story on the average couples experiencing IVF -- follow them through an IVF cycle from beginning to end. This would help to educate the public on what normal couples experiencing common problems go through -- and how IVF, a relatively simple concept can help them achieve conception. These children are wanted and will be loved. Before jumping to judgments of others, each one of us should think about what they might or might not do if they were affected. Many of us want to become parents or grandparents, and are happy the resources are available to help.

Madison, NJ

Dear FRONTLINE,

After reading all of the responses to your program, I would like to point out a few of my issues. First, as far as it being "God's" will for me not to have children. My infertility resulted from having two dermoid tumors removed from each ovary. The scar tissue has resulted in an inability to concieve naturally.

This was a required surgery as those tumors were situated as they could twist and burst my tubes resulting in my death.

I would challenge you to tell me why that is any different from someone receiving cancer treatment or kidney dialysis -- why are they allowed treatment covered by insurance and I am not?

Second, my husband and I do not want designer children, we want a child to love and care for and will make the necessary sacrifices in our lives to do so. Many of you say adopt -- it is not that easy. It is just as expensive and intrusive, if not more and in the U.S. getting the parental rights terminated is a nightmare. International adoption is quicker, but just as time consuming and expensive. We were not looking for infants, but sibling groups just starting in school -- I can't even remember how many agencies said forget it -- not available.

Lastly, regarding the insurance coverage -- why is it ok that some companies cover viagra and not infertility?

I wish that all of us going through this nightmare of a disease -- yes it is a disease, realize our hopes and dreams of holding our child in our arms one day. It is not a selfish desire!

landing, NJ

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a person who has dealt with both sides of this issue as a person with infertility and an Intensive Care Nursery nurse, I do believe that there are times when a very fine line is being crossed.

Yes, I very much wanted to have a child withour genetic background, both my husband and I were willing to limit how far we would go to have a natural child. We chose to supplement my egg production with medication and let nature take it's course.

I've cared for many multiple births at my hospital and seen many premature births. Many of our babies go home without long term problems, but some do leave with lifelong medical problems and parents who have to figure out how to pay high hospital bills when their insurance doesn't cover everything.

My husband and I chose to adopt a beautiful baby girl after trying for 3 years and she will soon be celebrating her 3rd birthday. I couldn't imagine loving a child more. Even though she is not of our flesh, I am still amazed at how much she is like us. When God closes on door, he always opens another. You just have to be willing to look for it

Central Square, N.Y.

Dear FRONTLINE,

I believe it is

a God given right to bear children. However, the inability to bear children is not a disease. I believe it's God's way of sending someone a message. That may sound cold, but I believe it's true. The intervention of man by way of infertility treatments resulting in multiples is totally unnatural. I can simpathize with people who want children and are unable to have them, but they should not be bitter towards those who can and do have children saying that they don't understand unless they themselves are unable to have children.

Going to clinics to have IVF and donated sperm is not natural. I can go along with IVF if it is husband and wife. Sperm donated from a stranger is unacceptable to me because the child resulting from that is being denied the right to know his/her father. Children are suppose to result out of love not out of convenience, science, or a strong maternal desire to have a child. Science is good, actually I think it's great. But, comparing infertility to heart disease is too drastic. Infertility is not a disease. It can be the result of a disease. Therefore, I don't think it should be viewed as a disease. It can be viewed more or less a an inability to conceive for a woman or the inability to impregnant for a man. However, children are gifts from God. If one can't conceive children naturally, perhaps that's God's way of saying something, but those people are just refusing to hear because of their own selfish desires. Also, if I can't throw a baseball 100 feet while most people can, I can't view my inability to throw 100 feet as a disease and then say I need a donated arm which will inable me to throw 100 feet. Sometimes I think our desire to have some things clouds out judgement.

Chicago, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

I watched the program in hopes of being enlightened by new techniques for treating infertility. Instead I was saddened and depressed at the focus of your program. I came to this web site in hopes of being uplifted by reading messages of empathy and instead I cried when I read the suggestions obviously from fanatics who have never faced the realization that they might never be able to conceive a child of their ownthat we who seek IVF treatments are ego-centrical for wanting a child.

It's NOT a decision that any infertile couple wants to make. In fact it is a very self-less act when you think about the risk that women place themselves in just to be able to conceive. I wish that people on this earth would just kindly live and let live.

christina greer
Blackstone , MA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Only once did I hear one of the parents you interviewed say that people in her position should think about the child and not be so selfish.

"I want to be a parent", "I want to be called 'Daddy'", me, me, me. It's no wonder why so many children in this world end up as such broken people or selfish beings: they don't learn to be mature, thoughtful adults from their parents.

San Diego, California

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am 31 years old and had planned to have my family by the time I was 30. It didn't and hasn't happened, and we have just started fertility testing. My husband will not continue with the testing, and I am facing a terrible decision. I love him and our life together beyond words, but I, no we, want children to share our love and life, beyond that. The end of each month leaves me so sad, just so sad. I can't do this alone, but I just don't know what to do anymore.

Cincinnati, OH

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am one of the many people who suffer from "infertility". It is a disease whether people want to believe it or not. It may not be life threatening but it is an illness. There are people who can't understand why we would put our body, emotions, spouse and ourselves through something like in vitro but its to one day hold a child of our own. People don't understand what infertility does to a person, a family a couple. Because multiples are publicized so often people look at all infertile couples as wanting to have 5, 6 even 7 babies. But that's not the case. I think we all start off with a mission to have a child, one child, not any more than that. But sometimes, we end up with more. What can we do? It's the couples choice to do selective reduction or not. I think in some cases the reproductive endocrinologists are going to far transferring 7 or eight embryos. That to me is excess but it's my choice when it's my body and if the people who have multiples want to take the risk, IT'S THEIR CHOICE. I'm fortunate that my husband and I have the technology to hopefully, conceive and give birth to my own child and I thank God for that.

Diane Zugel
N. Stonington, CT

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am surprised and saddened by the people who think that infertile people should just "get over it" and not attempt to take advantage of the technology available. Cancer treatment left me infertile; I feel broken and disabled because a major physiological system in my body does not function correctly anymore. Why should my access to medical technology be more limited than someone whose disability is more visible, but similarly non-life-threatening? I don't believe it is selfish of me to want to experience pregnancy and childbirth, to be parent to a child in whom I can see echoes of my husband; certainly wanting to have children with one's spouse is a pretty normal aspiration. I doubt that people who can have children the usual way don't do it just because it's cheaper--are they any less egotistical simply because they can pass on their genes without help?

Bloomfield, NJ

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