Friday, December 12, 2003

Dumbest IVF Law ... Ever

I realize that there are a lot of things about IVF that make people uncomfortable.

There are embryos being created that may never have the chance to develop beyond the blastocyst stage even if they are healthy. (For example, if a couple produces six healthy embryos, implants two and freezes the rest, then they have twins and decide that's the size their family will be. The remaining embryos will eventually be discarded or, depending upon local laws and mores, they may end up being used for research.)

Or IVF techniques can be used to for gender selection or to avoid chromosomal problems. (This is part of what we are using PGD for, not gender selection, but seeking a chromosomally normal embryo because the ones we are producing normally are so chromosomally abnormal that if Evelin does get pregnant, the result every time thus far has been a miscarriage.)

So Italy is looking to solve these discomforts by heavily restricting IVF [Guardian | AGI] in ways that make no sense.

The new law bars, among other things, any use of donor sperm or eggs; limiting the number of embryos that can be created to three and all three must be transferred; no freezing of embryos; no genetic testing of embryos; no surrogacy; no IVF treatments for gays, single people, or elderly women (I wonder how they set the age limit ...); etc. Human cloning is also banned, as is experimentation with embryos.

Sure, IVF is a complicated science that requires oversight and regulation; there is plenty that can be done that could be abused, but this law is ridiculous. Also, I know the Catholic Church opposes IVF (and frowns upon IUIs and a lot of other infertility treatments) and that the Holy See has a lot of influence within Italy, but there has to be a much better solution than this law.

If Evelin and I lived in Italy, right now we would be completely out of luck. Our next stage is likely to involve either donor sperm or donor eggs, oops, neither allowed under the Italian law. Our previous IVF cycle also violated multiple provisions: 32 eggs retrieved? Banned. 28 fertilized? Banned. Genetic testing? Banned. Okay, we did follow the rules by transferring the three embryos that passed the PGD tests, but we were planning to freeze viable embryos if we had had a bunch of them (an IVF cycle using frozen embryos is a lot less invasive, painful, and costly than the entire retrieval process).

Hopefully, wiser heads in the judiciary or among the populace, if it gets put to a referendum as some legislators are hoping, will boot the new law from the books quickly.

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