Dear Dr Hans Hanevik
I read some articles today where you are quotes as saying
“Artificial fertilisation is altering human evolution by letting the “subfertile” or “disease prone” have babies when nature would normally stop them”
I am writing as one of those sub fertile women you refer to. I went through the menopause when I was 15, and whilst I have adopted to become a mum, I am also perusing IVF to give him a sibling.
“Disease prone” does not necessarily correlate to those needing IVF. Whilst infertility is classed as a disease by the WHO, that is not the same as saying this is a condition that would be passed down to a resulting child.
First for the record, I am not “disease prone”. I would be interested to see where your research linking infertility and other disease lies?
Whilst I am sure most people undergoing fertility treatment would welcome sound research into the effects – we care about our own health and that of our hoped for future children, we are not the often media portrayed version of desperate women doing anything just to be mum – I feel you have chosen a damaging and hurtful way to go about it and I am saddened for your fertility patients, in that you show very little empathy by sharing your hypothesis, without actually backing it up with serious research first. In particular you bring up “natural selection”, which is easy to discuss when I see you have been able to have children of your own. Are they perfect? Would you still be glad you had had them if their genes were not perfect? I expect you would.
There are quite a few areas you haven’t addressed in your summary, which conveniently helps lead the media to sensationalist conclusions.
Dr Hanevik you don’t specify which “faulty genes” you are asserting those undergoing IVF would be passing on. This is actually pretty crucial given that a vast amount of people going thorough IVF, are doing so not because of a genetic disease, but because of age related issues, infertility diseases that are not known to be genetically passed on, or also the rise we have seen in IVF for same sex couples. You also don’ t separate those infertility diseases that are passed on but can be easily addressed with modern medicine.
You also haven’t included that some are using IVF specifically to avoid genetic conditions being passed on through embryo selection. For example, there has been an increase in the number of serious inherited conditions that can be identified by these methods in recent years (HFEA)
You’ve also not included the fact that, out of for example, 20 eggs collected during IVF, only some will fertilise. Usually 5 day old blastocysts are transferred (as is the aim in IVF) meaning that, embryologists have the chance to determine a great deal about which blastocysts are healthy to transfer, with many embryos not making it, just as in natural selection.
You also have not covered the many cycles of IVF that use donor embryos or sperm. These kind men and women who donate to give other couples a chance of a birth family, undergo screening for serious genetic and hereditary conditions, therefore again not passing on the diseases that may concern you.
Given that infertility is on the rise with the general population (not on behalf of children born by IVF I might add) it would be very short sighted to imagine that not providing treatment wouldn’t then risk having an adverse affect on the population long term.
Another point I would like to address is that generally of natural selection. By asserting that imperfect genes should not be passed along, are you also asserting this should be the case in the general popluation? Where far more would passed than in the IVF population? For example Heart disease, arthritis, asthma, downs syndrome, Alzheimers, some cancers, acne, colour blindness, epilepsy. Are you saying people who may be passing on these should not have children either? Or are you just picking on the tiny in comparision, number of those undergoing IVF?
Natural selection would have some of these people not survive, let alone reproduce. Thanks to the miracle of medicine, they do. They can live full lives. They contribute to this beautiful world, made all the more amazing because of the diversity within it. Humans do not have to be perfect to leave an impression that is beautiful and helpful. Stephen Hawking had MND. Without medical intervention, we may not have his knowledge today on physics. Imperfect genetics, it should not be a surprise, can be perfect in their own way. Its rare to find a family that is entirely free of some kind of genetic disorder
Shall we just get rid of all medicine then and proceed as “nature intended”? Or perhaps nature intended for all humans to be different and your idea of perfect is not what it intended at all.
My condition was not passed to me through genetics. However, if it was, I can categorically say, I would still rather be here than have had my parents refused treatment because I would need it myself in the future. Having infertility does not make sub human. It does not stop my contribution to society. It has not stopped me caring for a child within your society who could otherwise have been lost in the care system.
Before you hold your conference to discuss your arguments, I would like to propose you gather research into the following at a minumum…and that perhaps you should have done so before sharing an incomplete picture with the media, affecting the hard work that those campaigning for fertility rights have been doing, energetically, emotionally and with their own hard research.
1. Compare the number of IVF babies that carry genetic mutations, with non-IVF pregnancies
2. Conduct a research study determine if infertility issues are in fact being passed onto children resulting from IVF. There are now many generations of people for through this method, a lot of who I am sure would be willing to take part
3. Read the statistics on infertility fully….find out how many cases of IVF are really down to infertility caused by genetic disease. My own, all be it layman research into this, is drawing the conclusion it is not the majority of cases
4. Consider that it is likely that most people with genetic defects are still fertile and would pass those genes on regardless. Aiming at IVF, whilst great to get your name out there using a trending and emotional topic, is not entirely fair.
Those going through infertility are an already disadvantaged and vulnerable population within the media and health services. Like I said earlier, we do welcome research. We do want the best for our hooped for future children. However we do also have high standards and expect of medical professionals, such as yourself, that you do the research before making claims and courting the media. What we need right now in the fertility world is honesty, research and care. Please be a part of that.