Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Should There Be State/Federal Regulation of Medically Assisted Fertility Practices?

I was asked to participate on a panel on OPB's Think Out Loud this past February (on my birthday, incidentally) to discuss whether or not there should be state or federal regulation of reproductive technologies. In short, my answer is an unequivocal "yes." The mother and her OHSU doctor on the program did not agree with me; PSU bioethicist Patricia Backlar did agree with me.

What do you think?

After the program, the show's host April Baer called me to do a follow-up interview for the show's blog (I think she did this because I was given the least amount of air-time). Baer told me that after the program the guest mother and her doctor told her that what I had said about the numbers of UK and Swedish donors returning to "normal" levels within five years of federal laws compelling all donors to make their identity known was false. Baer wanted my response to that.

I sent her the two following articles legitimizing my claim:

The first link is to a 1995 medical abstract concerning Swedish donor numbers post-federal legislation outlawing donor anonymity:

An excerpt from the abstract says:

"This data shows that there has been an increase in number of donors being recruited, suggesting that the possibility of future contact by genetic offspring has not had the negative impact on the availability of donors predicted."

And the second link is to a 2007 article titled "Number of sperm donors up following anonymity law changes" which states, "Many commentators continue to claim that the change in the law to remove anonymity for sperm and egg donors would lead to an immediate and steep fall in the number of donors. These new figures show that the predicted drop in sperm donor numbers is a myth.":

The problem with trusting American doctors on this subject is that they (perhaps understandably) don't want the federal government telling them how to conduct themselves (not to mention the fact that the medically-assisted fertility business is a multi-billion dollar a year industry). But the issues are far larger and more important than the American Medical Association's freedom from legislation. It is government's responsibility to protect its citizen's best interests from the, sometimes, depersonalized interests of industry.

I'm confident that minimal legislation can be passed here in the U.S. protecting both the future children's right to know their own genetic lineage (and thus themselves) while still providing the much needed fertility services to women like the mother who was on the show with me. It doesn't have to be one or the other.

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