Flower

TDIH: First “Test-Tube Baby” Born

“I’m not a wizard or a Frankenstein tampering with Nature. We are not creating life.
We have merely done what many people try to do in all kinds of medicine–to help
nature. We found nature could not put an egg and sperm together, so we did it.”
Patrick Steptoe, who with Robert Edwards, perfected in vitro fertilization
of the human egg and delivered the world’s first “test-tube baby.”

In Vitro Fertilization via Pixabay [Public Domain]

It’s hard to imagine now, but when the first baby was born as the result of in vitro fertilization (IVF) on July 25, 1978, it was highly controversial. The birth attracted opposition from scientists and religious leaders, and international media attention. Louise Brown, the world’s first so-called “test tube baby” was conceived in a laboratory and born at Oldham General Hospital in England. The term “test-tube baby” is actually a misnomer, since IVF is usually performed in shallower glass containers called Petri dishes. After the birth was announced, her parents received bags full of hate mail from across the globe, as well as fan letters. While some are still opposed to IVF for ethical and religious reasons, more than 5 million children have been born worldwide through its use. Nearly 68,000 babies were born using IVF methods in the U.S. alone in 2015.

Louise Brown Holding the 1000th Bourn Hall Baby, 1987
Courtesy Bourn Hall Clinic, via National Library of Medicine [CC BY 4.0]

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 10% to 15% of couples in the US are infertile—meaning they are unable to conceive through natural means. The IVF technique was pioneered by two doctors in Cambridge, England–gynecologist Patrick Steptoe and reproductive biologist Robert Edwards. Their research led to the successful fertilization of a human egg outside the body and the transfer of the resulting embryo to the womb of Lesley Brown. A healthy baby girl was delivered to Lesley and her husband John after they had tried unsuccessfully to conceive a child for 15 years using natural methods. Two years later Steptoe and Edwards founded the world’s first IVF clinic, Bourn Hall Clinic, near Cambridge, England. The techniques and drugs now used around the world were first developed there.

Today, despite objections to its use (for example, Catholic hospitals often prohibit doctors from performing basic reproductive services including IVF), it has become much more widely accepted. For the most part, the ethical debate going on now is not so much about IVF itself, but the on the limits or constraints that should be placed on its use. Since the first IVF baby was born only 39 years ago, the long-term risks are not known. If a couple divorces, who gets custody and control of their frozen embryos? IVF enables single women to become mothers, same-sex couples to have a child of their own, and older women who are past menopause to become mothers. (In 2016, a 70-year-old Indian woman became the world’s oldest mother by using IVF.)

The average cost for IVF in the U.S. ranges from $12,000-$15,000 and can go much higher depending on individual circumstances and variables like the mother’s age or whether a surrogate is used. Although some insurance companies cover IVF procedures, many don’t. As a result, only people with the financial means to afford costly assisted reproductive technologies are able to take advantage of them, shutting out lower-income people who also want to become parents.

Screen Cap from SIRS Issues Researcher

Educators, direct your students to the new and updated SIRS Issues Researcher to dig deeper into the topic of Human Reproductive Technology. This Leading Issue explores these issues in-depth by asking users the Essential Question, “Does the use of human reproductive technology challenge the basic ideas of conception?” Background information, a timeline, viewpoint articles, multimedia resources and questions for critical thinking and analysis and are provided. They can also explore these other related Leading Issues:

Anonymous Eggs and Sperm Donation

Genetic Testing

Human Cloning

Stem Cells

Surrogacy

SIRS Issues Researcher supports state, national and international learning standards. Don’t have it? Request a free trial.

Subscribe via email to Share This and never miss a post.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

*