Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Children of Sperm and Egg Donors Seek Information

An article by Cheryl Miller posted today at www.reason.com raised questions on how the information should be handled, by whom and how much. In "Who's Your Daddy?" Cheryl discusses the plight of one young woman who has a rare stomach disorder. She is in her 20s when records were either destroyed or not kept at all. All she knows is that the sperm donor is of Scandinavian descent. She doesn't want to meet him, but she would desperately like medical information.

Today, most agencies and IVF centers that have their own in-house donor program keep detailed medical and biographical information on their donors. However, the industry is pressing for a national donor registry. I am a member of the American Bar Association's section on Reproduction and the Law and I can tell you that at the last meeting this issue was discussed. It is not going to go away, but I do believe that rather than have the government control and run it, those in the industry should create and control the registry, as the article proposed, with a board of directors as well as guidelines.

If not, we could have a situation like the UK, where couples wait two years, or longer, for a sperm or egg donor because donors cannot receive compensation and cannot be anonymous. One UK woman was able to work with a donor from the United States, but only on apeal from the government and only because her husband has ties to the United States.

I encourage you to read the article as it is in-depth, well-researched and proposes some solutions to this issue.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Parents Via Egg Donation or, “Marna’s Friends”

Marna Gatlin is without doubt a wonderful woman who generously gives her time for something she feels passionately about: egg donation. Because of her passion and devotion to the group she now runs, Parents Via Egg Donation, she was featured in today’s The Oregonian.

I met her this past fall in San Francisco at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and she was every bit the woman I imagined her to be: supportive, caring, bright, passionate and compassionate. Her organization is not affiliated with any agency, including this one, and she and her organization are a wealth of information for those going through egg donation, no matter where you are in the process.

I tried an egg donation cycle (which failed because I needed a surrogate not a donor, but that’s a whole other story) and I remember going through the transfer conflicted about what to tell the child if he or she was born. My cycle was in 1999 and there was nowhere I could turn to for support or guidance, just like Marna. Now men and woman have an organization and a support system for their many questions and concerns — and a shoulder to cry on when they learn the news that they will need a donor to have their child.

If you are going through egg donation or even if you have already gone through the process, I encourage you to seek out Marna and become one of her friends at Parents Via Egg Donation.

Friday, January 09, 2009

First UK Baby Born Free of Cancer Gene

While this has been done in the United States, the first baby was born in the UK free of the breast cancer gene, BRCA1, which would have meant that the baby girl had an 80 percent chance of contracting breast cancer. I know this is a sensitive issue for some and there are arguments that doctors should not play God and create super babies, but when there is a fatal disease that can be prevented, I do not think that is playing God. In this case, this couple has eradicated a potentially fatal disease from their family. This girl’s father’s grandmother, mother, sister and a cousin have all been diagnosed with the disease.

Using pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PDG), infertility specialist Dr. Paul Serhal was able to remove a cell from the developing embryo and test it for the gene mutation. Carrying this gene also means that the baby girl could have had a 50 percent increase in contracting ovarian cancer.

Click here for more on the first UK baby born free of BRCA1.

Assisted Reproduction and Autism

It’s only speculation now that environmental factors, including assisted reproduction technologies, have contributed to the high increase in the number of children diagnosed with Autism. Education and awareness of Austin have been key to the increasing diagnosis in children. The study, by Irva Hertz-Picciotto, PhD, MPH, chief of the division of environmental and occupational health at the University of California, Davis, clearly demonstrated that they increase in reported cases is very real. While most of the research being conducted is genetic based, the author says that more research should be done on environmental factors, including assisted reproduction technologies, which have only become available in the past 30 years.

Before I cause panic, I need to let you know that assisted reproduction was not the only environmental factor considered by the author of the study. Others included shampoos, soaps, and medications.