July 15, 2007

Was I Asleep for That Lecture?

by PG

Despite an undergrad concentration in bioethics that included a seminar on Reproductive Ethics, I wasn't aware of this chapter of in vitro fertilization history:

Back then, doctors extracted women’s eggs surgically under general anesthesia. The risks of infection, organ damage and even death from the procedure may have been justifiable for an infertile woman going through I.V.F., but not for a donor. So early researchers borrowed a trick from animal husbandry: when the donor ovulated, she was inseminated with the recipient’s husband’s sperm, the embryo formed in her body and, four to six days later, was flushed out of the uterus and transferred to the intended mother. This adapted procedure “was problematic in many ways,” said Dr. Richard Paulson, chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles and a pioneer in the development of egg donation. For one thing, if the doctors missed the embryo, the donor could wind up pregnant.
I didn't even know you could "flush out" an embryo from a uterus without destroying it (as opponents of the morning after pill worry that Plan B does in preventing a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine wall). It seems incredible that physicians ever could have taken such a risk. Presumably they used hormones similar to those in Plan B in order to render the egg donor's uterus inhospitable to the embryo, but surely many embryos were deliberately created and then lost in the process of recapturing them from the donor.

July 15, 2007 09:26 PM | TrackBack
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