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

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a pediatrician who cares for handicapped children, I have been impressed by how many horrible problems are the result of infertility treatments. I do not understand how the FDA can approve drugs and treatments that result in so much prematurity, illness, disabilty, expense,and heartache. I do not believe that prospective parents who are considering fertility treatments, are really informed of the risks.

Perhaps the urge to have a baby is able to overcome reason for parents, society, government, and the media.

Thank you for trying to enlighten us.

George Miller
Salem, Oregon

Dear FRONTLINE,

I'm horrified at the self-righteous attitudes posted by some of the people in this forum. If you have cancer, should you choose not to aggressively pursue treatment that may help to prolong or even save your life, because it is "God's" decision that you have a fatal disease? Get real. Like an earlier person said, we don't want a clone, or a disease-free super baby, or multiples, we just want a little help having a child of our own. I don't feel like we are doing anything morally wrong. It's too bad that some people have so little sense of compassion or empathy.

Vancouver, Canada

Dear FRONTLINE,

I must share my story, if only briefly, for those of you out there who do not believe in these infertility treatments and think that people are wasting their time, money and emotions on something that is not or should not be attained. My husband and I suffered through years of being unable to conceive a child on our own. Contrary to your statistics, our infertility is caused by endometriosis, which I did not contract through an STD or previous abortion, etc. Millions of women have endometriosis and have never had an abortion or an STD, as is my case. We elected to pursue IVF. It was successful on the first attempt. We did not spend any more money and probably less than it would have cost to adopt a baby. I cannot stress how important it is for people to investigate their infertility clinics/reproductive endocrinologists extensively. Our precious twin boys will be one year old this month. I would not trade my experience for anything. Yes, our twins were born slightly prematurely, and in the first year of life they have never had a single illness, not even a cold! I would challenge all of you who are so opinionated and who obviously haven't been through this miracle yourselves to check into the facts yourselves. I think you will find that this world of reproductive medicine is not all heartbreak and tragedy.

J. P.
Lincoln, Nebraska

Dear FRONTLINE,

I have to respond to the message left by the person from Rochester, MN. I am 31 years old & lost a tube & ovary to a "quack" doctor at the age of 18 who insisted that it was an immediate threat to my life. In 1997, I found out that it left me without any fallopian tube.

I do not feel that IVF creates babies that all need "trache" tubes -- I think you are confusing IVF with irresponsible IUI treatments McCaughley kids were conceived through fertility drugs & allowed her to complete a cycle with too many follicles. IVF retrieves eggs, then limits the number of actual embryos back into the uterus each time.

I also feel that it is unfair to stereotype all IVF "seekers" as wealthy people with big ego problems. Society EXPECTS us to become parents. It is parenthood that often changes our identities as "adults" --

I do not have an ego problem. I have been a school teacher for 9 years & have loved & cared for each student that has passed through my classroom. It would be nice to actually have a child of my own, to raise, share special times as I had when I was young.

I am not wealthy. I do not make much money -- and I have spent most of my life's savings on IVF for the HOPE of parenthood. You make adoption sound easy. We have been on a waiting list for months. We won't get a placement for approximately 5 more years.

Please be careful before you judge IVF patients. You can't totally understand their motives or their feelings unless you have actually walked a mile in any of their shoes. And we each have our own special, unique set of circumstances & stories. IVF has promised hope to many of us that have spent YEARS of riding an emotional roller coaster of hope & dispair.

Lisa Perry
Corry, PA

Dear FRONTLINE,

This was a fascinating program. The future is here and it is a little scary. What will the youth of tomorrow have as family memories? A dish, parents searching for an egg mate on the internet? The ideal sperm donor bothered me. He looks quite different than me. Does that mean African-Americans aren't users of this new technology? And what about the rock singer who wants to continue a career, plant an egg and sperm in a surrogate woman and have it all. It is troubling. I was glued to the tube, wondering what the future holds in store for us all. Are we a commodity?

Nigel Alston
winston-salem, nc

Dear FRONTLINE,

These are women's bodies and women's souls that these "new" technologies are intruding upon -- it is time to "really" question the underlying factors which will explain "what" the consequences of these technologies really are and "why" we as a society have put such an emphasis on parenthood. Why it is so important to be a parent and what are the consequences of these assisted reproduction technologies on the couple, the child and society. The pain and suffering of infertility is VERY real, but as much as we need to understand these technologies we also need to understand this society that puts so much emphasis on parenthood, at almost any price and, so very little on the lack there of.

Kim Lamers-Bellio, Ph.D.
Toronto, Canada

Dear FRONTLINE,

"Making Babies" did a good job of presenting most of the scientific and some of the ethical considerations concerning IVF and other extraordinary measures couples might take to conceive a child from their own genetic codes.

As one-half of an infertile couple who adopted a wonderful baby, I have to wonder why couples put themselves through the emotional agony, the physical minefield and the financial black hole of these advanced infertility treatments. There is nothing mystical about two people being able to conceive without assistance: simply look at the number of unwanted pregnancies that society must deal with in some form or fashion. By the same token, successful in utero conception does not carry with it the promise of successful parenthood: just look at the many tragic examples in the news these days. Wouldn't those $thousands, even $hundred-thousands, be better spent endowing the child's education, and/or supporting a non-profit

adoption agency?

The point is that one's child need not be genetically related to fulfill all the promise, and the heartache, of complete parenthood.

And in a way, many cases of couples chasing "the IVF cure" are supreme examples of supreme egotism. Who do these people think they are, trying to refute Nature? And what of the children so born? Do we really know that they will have not, nor will not, suffer physical pain in order to salve their parents' misguided egos? I cannot believe that something as simple as a trach tube is not agonizing for an infant born prematurely, especially due to IVF tinkering. I shall not remark on the physicians who cater to this trade except to wonder if five Benzes and summer homes in the Hamptons aren't a wee bit excessive.

There are thousands of children that need homes, and if one is squeamish, there are hundreds of adoption agencies who place children according to a couples preset notions of what "their" child would be like.

The amazing thing is that, 5 seconds after that child is placed in a loving adoptive couples' arms, an adopted child stops being adopted. It is a moment of supreme joy, one not remotely dimished by genetic differences. My wife and I regard infertility as a gift in and of itself, for not only do we adore our son, but we know that we were able to provide a place for a baby who was unable fo find a place for himself. I personally find that much more enriching than writing checks to infertility clinics.

P.S. It is not unheard of that birth mothers place their children with homosexual couples....

William Greuling
Rochester, MN

Dear FRONTLINE,

While I agree that technology should not be used for "designer children", I also agree that the need to procreate is something that we cannot control. It is our duty as human beings, and christians if that is your faith. Why is it so hard to believe that people would want to have a healthy happy baby more than anything else on earth?

Most infertile couples can achieve pregnancy through much less complex measures. Most of the technology discussed in the program was for poeple who have tried literally everything else. It accounts for a small number of infertile couples. Most of the technology to help infertile couples is not controvercial at all and considered quite normal and ethical.

Only people who go through the pains of infertility can judge what is unethical or unnecessary treatment for them...just the same as some people continue cancer treatments while some chose to stop treatments and live out their last days happy and with...FAMILY.

Farmington, ME

Dear FRONTLINE,

A comment made by one of the lesbians was quite unnerving. Chuckling, she suggested that many children in the future will be discussing on the playground that they were created in a petri dish. Don't these women see what problems they will be creating for this child? How very selfish they are.

Pittsburgh, PA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I do not believe that receiving infertility treatments is wrong. The thing that amazes me is that everyone on the show except the one doctor discussed how "mankind" is headed to a new future, when the truth is that these techniques are really only available to the very wealthy. I don't believe in utilitarianism, but I also do not think that hundreds of women should be deprived pre-natal care so that insurance companies can cover the extreme needs of the few. How do we achieve a balance?

Also, while it must be very difficult to make these extreme decisions about having a child, I believe it also must be very difficult to make decisions about NOT bringing a child into the world. I find it interesting that a few people who have commented here have expressed disgust with abortions and, at the same, have justified spending tax dollars on helping infertile couples. How about commenting on how money can be spent to help young single mothers instead of judging those who choose abortions?

College Station, Texas

Dear FRONTLINE,

I appreciated your piece on infertility. It was very insightful and well done. I just finished reading some of the other viewer's comments and am extremely disheartened and frustrated by those who feel that they have superior "morals" or "ethics" relating to this issue. Many of us experiencing infertility are not in this situation because of STD's or previous abortions - in fact, we had no more choice in the matter than we do about the color of our skin. The desire to bring life into the world with the man that you have chosen to share your life with is not selfish - it's natural and healthy! Until these ignorant people walk in our shoes, they have no right to judge what medical technology can or cannot do for us. As far as the arguments on "natural selection" and "God" go, if God did not intend for humans to create, invent, and innovate in the field of medicine, then he would not have given us the capacity to do so! My final thought to these people who find it so easy to judge is - spend a little more time feeling compassion and empathy, and quit bothering/torturing people with your self-righteous morals.

Amy B.
Appleton, WI

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you FRONTLINE for an intriguing program. The financial issues really came through loud and clear. It's pretty easy to see how the incentives for multiple embryo implantations are in place. If couples are paying for IVF treatments out of their own pockets such as 2nd mortagages on homes no wonder these folks are begging for clinics to implant far too many embryos. It seems to me that coverage of infertility treatments would at least reduce the incentive for clinics to jeopardize the future child's life. Perhaps part of the federal government's responsibility is mandating coverage of infertility, and through this mandate regulation on the "extreme" measures used.

Washington, DC

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a registered nurse whose specialty is caring for expremie infants of 25 + weeks'gestational ages.

Two issues not covered in this piece were obvious to me:

The prices paid by the individual child with pain and heartache and extreme financial burden for the individual families and tax- payers. The children's life challenges will range from being in a nearly vegetative state to a life of constant pain, surgery and learning challenges.

The costs to parents include financial and emotional burdens. Never again will their marriage relationship be the same--the child's welfare must be of supreme priority. that life is one of constant worry, heartache and constant medical visits. If nursing/home medical care is necessary, total loss of privacy is a daily fact of life--there is always a medical "intruder" in their lives.

The second issue relates ot organ and sperm donation. Individual Accepted Donors are not restricted in numbers of donations. Since the recipients are not even given the ID # of the donors, we as a society face a genetic nightmare when this generation of high-tech "conceived" infants mature, marry and reproduce. There is bound to be marriage between half- and "Whole" siblings. Those couples' fetuses, which are not miscarried, will result in deformed and retarded children.

How will society relate to this genetic legacy?

Lexington, MA

Dear FRONTLINE,

My husband and I have been dealing with infertility for over eight years. While I feel that couple s deserve the right to have a child if they choose so, I also feel that there are limitations, such as donor eggs and sperm, that cross an ethical boundry. My husband and I have made one unsuccessful attempt with IVF but because of lack of insurance coverage and personal finances have been unable to make any further attempts. I feel this is another issue that needs further attention. It is so unfair that insurance companies will pay for experimental cancer treatments, reversal procedures for women and men who conscientiously made the choice to have surgerical contreceptive procedures preformed and then changed their minds for whatever reason and the most disgusting of all, abortions. But, these same insurnace companies will not pay for a loving couple, who cannot conceive naturally for unexplained reasons in our case, to achieve a goal that most people take for granted. I am not saying that insurance companies should pay for unlimited tries, but a "per couple" limit could be set thus giving "not as well off couples" a chance of feeling that all possibilities were exhausted in their plight to become parents!

Fairhope, PA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for an interesting program. I thought it was a good balance of medical information, ethical considerations, and glimpses into the real-life stories and struggles of people who want desperately to have a child. I also appreciated the diversity represented in the program, although I am sure you will get plenty of hateful remarks about it. Personally, I support some form of regulation within this growing medical field that would protect BOTH vulnerable parties--the patient/parents and the children. This is a vital field but it should have limits. My final comment is that unless you have personally experienced the agony of infertility, you simply cannot judge.

Alyce Leytham
Kansas City, MO

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