Today is the thirty-sixth birthday of Louise Brown, the first person ever to be born following in vitro fertilisation (IVF). Her conception was achieved through the pioneering research and clinical work of three people in particular – Robert Edwards, Jean Purdy and Patrick Steptoe.
Sadly, these three pioneers are no longer with us. Happily, their legacy is writ large. Since Louise Brown’s birth in 1978, a further five million babies have been born worldwide who were conceived through IVF.
Today is also the day when the UK’s Journal of Medical Ethics decided to publish a paper – by one Cristina Richie, an ethicist at Boston College in Massachusetts – entitled ‘What would an environmentally sustainable reproductive technology industry look like?’.
Richie attacks fertility treatment from an environmentalist perspective, proceeding from the baldly stated view that ‘retrenchment in all areas of life is the key to slowing down or halting carbon emissions that lead to climate change’. She observes that ‘for each child made through medical intervention a carbon legacy results’, and complains of the fertility sector that ‘an entire business continues unchecked with the sole purpose of creating more consuming humans’.
The year may only be half over, but this must surely be a contender for 2014’s most misanthropic journal article.