July 24, 2009

Be Our Guest / Dr. Hans Geisler

Another way to play God

Here we go again! That means you and me, all of us who belong to the human genre. It appears that our instincts to play “God” have not changed since the time of Adam and Eve.

What brought this to mind was a pregnancy attributable to in vitro fertilization occurring in a woman over the age of 65, and the serious consequences arising from that pregnancy.

Maria del Carmen Bousada de Lara, a Spanish woman, delivered twins in 2006.

The following year, she admitted that she had lied to the infertility physicians at the California clinic who assisted with the in vitro fertilization necessary for her to become pregnant.

She evidently lied when she told the staff she was only 55 and insisted that, therefore, she would be around to care for and raise her children without any problem. After all, her grandmother had lived to the age of 101.

When her twins were born on Dec. 29, 2006, Bousada de Lara was 101 days older than a Romanian woman who had given birth to a daughter in 2005. And then the “unforeseen” happened.

A recent edition of Diario de Cadiz, a Spanish newspaper, stated that their reporter had been informed by a brother that Bousada de Lara died on July 11, 2009. She was 69.

Do any of us really believe that to give birth at such an advanced age is an important achievement? Does it arise from a desire to become a statistic in the Guinness Book of World Records?

Are the doctors at the California infertility clinic proud of what they have accomplished? Did they give any thought to the fact that their patient had a much greater chance of leaving that set of twins orphaned than a younger woman would?

What about the problems even young mothers have running after and caring for a single child, let alone twins, on a daily basis?

Does any woman at age 66, if she really considers all the pros and cons associated with raising children, truly believe that she should become a mother, with all the responsibilities such a status entails, at such an advanced age?

I don’t plan to address the obvious concern that the Catholic Church has in justifying a pregnancy conceived in a petri dish rather than during the normal act of love between a wife and a husband.

We know that our Church, the Roman Catholic Church, considers in vitro fertilization to be seriously sinful. The reasons are obvious, and don’t need to be repeated in this column.

What brought Bousada de Lara’s pregnancy at age 66 and her death at 69 into sharp relief for me were some words about our current “infertility epidemic” culled from an article on page A12 of the July 12, 2009, edition of The Indianapolis Star. The headline for the article was “Techniques may help extend women’s fertility.”

As a retired gynecologic oncologist, I am familiar with the fact that ovarian transplants have been performed in women who had to undergo possible infertility-producing chemotherapy at a young age.

In such a case, the ovaries, or an ovary, can be removed prior to the onset of the drug therapy and then replaced later when chemotherapy is over and the patient is doing well. That is an option of cancer treatment to be considered by young, fertile women.

More to the point, however, in The Star article were the words of Dr. Sherman J. Silber from the St. Louis Infertility Center, who was quoted as saying, “We are in the middle of an infertility epidemic. With these new techniques, we could dramatically expand our reproductive lifespan.”

True enough! But is expanding our reproductive lifespan so that we can become mothers and fathers in our 50s and 60s and maybe even beyond a good idea? And why are we “in the middle of an infertility epidemic?”

Please don’t tell me that this “infertility epidemic” has come about because of the current worldwide economic crisis.

It started in the 1960s and 1970s, and has nothing to do with the present economy—although that economy isn’t of any aid in reversing our slide toward zero population growth.

Isn’t it more likely due to the fact that we humans want to have a comfortable life all set up and be able to enjoy it before we have to deal with raising children and possibly having our contented routine disturbed?

Or, even worse, maybe having children may never allow us to garner the wealth that we hope for with a fancy “everything on it” car, a big house in an exclusive suburb, lots of “let’s see the world” foreign travel, etc., etc. Those circumstances would constitute a real tragedy!

The true explanation at the heart of incidents such as the one described above is that all such acts are signs of the moral relativism which Pope Benedict XVI discusses in the three encyclicals he has written and, more particularly, his most recent one, “Caritas in Veritate.”

Until we get it straight in our secular minds that we are here on Earth in an anticipatory role before we reach heaven and that we have to live in such a manner that we do, we won’t change our behavior.

Our actions will become even more bizarre as we try to become “God” without understanding the type of “love” that is really needed to achieve union with the beatific vision, the real goal of our earthly life, a goal envisioned by our loving Creator from all eternity.

(Dr. Hans E. Geisler is a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis. He is a retired oncologist and gynecologist who recently completed advanced studies as an ethicist. He is also a member of the Archdiocesan Pro-Life Advisory Committee and serves on that committee’s speaker’s bureau. He may be contacted by e-mail at geisler_gynonc@msn.com.)

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