Helen Chernikoff’s report about assisted reproductive technologies (“Their Foremothers’ Daughters,” HealthCare, May 9) was not only inaccurate, it was shameful. She opens her piece with concerns about eugenics — as if in vitro fertilization (IVF) today has anything to do with creating “enhanced human beings” — and quickly invokes the Holocaust, casting a pall on modern fertility treatments that continues throughout her article.
Chernikoff’s concern about cytoplasmic transfer — a technique banned in the United States by the FDA in 2001 — is completely misplaced. Yet she uses it to spring into her diatribe against assisted reproduction.
For the record, there is no current connection between IVF and “designer babies.” While we can all entertain ourselves with how medicine may be practiced in the future, eugenics is hardly of current interest to most fertility specialists. Our focus, rather, is to meet the needs of our patients, which generally means the delivery of a healthy baby, regardless of the treatment required. Most patients with infertility do not even need IVF. Second, every full service fertility clinic includes a mental health professional, usually a clinical psychologist, as part of its staff. Counseling couples about the ramifications of the procedures they will undergo. Third, reproductive specialists devote a minimum of 11 years of postgraduate study to acquire the basic tools for practice, after which they are typically mentored by senior physicians for another three to five years.
Finally, reproductive medicine is the most regulated field of medicine. No other field requires of practitioners, by federal law, to report statistical outcomes to a centralized, publically available database, and no other field is scrutinized by as many regulatory agencies.
Curiously missing in Ms. Chernikoff’s article are the families who have benefitted from the techniques that so concern her. Thirty-five years after IVF was first described, there are now millions of children of every race, color and creed — including in our own communities — who would not exist were it not for the decades of work in this field by committed practitioners. Acknowledging this might have lent a semblance of balance to her otherwise misleading report.
Medical Director Genesis Fertility & Reproductive Medicine
Editor’s Note: The Jewish Week stands by the accuracy and tone of the article, which reported on the ethical concerns of a number of experts in the field.