- The Washington Times - Monday, January 24, 2005

A survey of fertility clinics in the United States found that few have policies for deciding

whom to help get pregnant — an issue drawing fresh attention because of reports of a 66-year-old woman in Romania giving birth.

About 80 percent of clinics had customers meet with financial coordinators, but only 18 percent had them see a social worker or psychologist.

“Assisted reproductive technologies are too driven by the desires of couples and not enough by the interests of children,” said Arthur Caplan, bioethics chairman at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the survey’s authors.

Results were published last week in Fertility and Sterility, a journal of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Most American clinics said they would help a 43-year-old get pregnant. One in five would refuse single women, but 5 percent don’t ask about marital status.

“A gay couple and a couple on welfare were about equally likely to be turned away,” said Andrea Gurmankin, a Harvard School of Public Health psychologist who led the study when she worked at the University of Pennsylvania.

One in 10 American couples are infertile, and their ability to receive medical help to have children depends on a host of subjective criteria and attitudes about parenthood by fertility clinic operators, researchers found.

About 100,000 pregnancy attempts are made each year using in vitro fertilization, in which eggs and sperm are mixed in a lab dish and the resulting embryos are implanted in the womb. More than 177,000 American babies have been created this way.

Researchers sent surveys to directors of 369 clinics or doctors’ offices offering these services across the country; 210 responded. On average, they turn away 4 percent of potential customers each year.

Although the survey didn’t specifically ask about helping older women have babies, several specialists interviewed by the Associated Press condemned news reports that a 66-year-old woman in Romania had given birth to a child created through in vitro fertilization.

Mr. Caplan called it “completely unethical and immoral,” noting that average life expectancy for Romanian women is 73 years.

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