May 7, 2012

Commodifying human life: Designer babies, brood mothers, baby flesh pills and donor daddies

In 2010 an eminent Chicago IVF doctor left his practice of creating babies in Petri dishes.  This is his story, Change of Heart

Dr Anthony J. Caruso is a Chicago doctor who worked in the field of in vitro fertilization for 15 years before he quit in 2010. We interviewed him by email about the reasons for his change of heart.

In 2008 I was increasingly concerned about the kind of procedures we were doing. Initially it was the demands of same-sex couples. Then it was the way in which everybody looked at the embryos that had undergone pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. Finally, it was the realization that the embryos that we were producing were just as important as the embryos that were transferred.
People who are going through IVF largely refuse to seek emotional or psychological support. And people who have not gone through the process do not understand what it entails. Perhaps the most interesting response that I have gotten to the presentations I am giving is from those who did not know exactly what happened during this process. Once they learn, the spectrum goes from rationalization to horror.
Every child is a gift from God. However, the process that brought them into existence has led to an attitude towards the embryo that is no different than any other commodity.

If you add pre-implantation diagnosis into the equation, then you really have a situation that is no different than an auto dealership or a department store. “I will take two of these and then freeze these and toss these.” The very people who are showing off their beautiful children will not answer questions about how many frozen embryos are still present or how many they asked to be destroyed.
IVF does not cure infertility. It bypasses the barriers to natural fertility. As such, it is really a business. Just think about the number of clinics that offer cash-back programs. They guarantee that if the couple does not conceive within a certain number of cycles, they will get some or all of their money back. Where is the “medicine” in that?

Here is a story about a Designer baby factory where eggs from beautiful Eastern Europeans are joined with sperm of wealthy Westerners and embryos implanted in desperate women.

For under an astonishing — and many will think nightmarishly futuristic — program devised to make the most efficient use of resources, or ‘optimize’ their baby producing system, as they put it, Wyzax and their partner agencies now source and assemble the ‘components’ of some babies in a variety of different countries before flying the resulting embryo to India to be implanted in the surrogate.
Once created, the embryos are frozen to minus 196c, placed in liquid nitrogen canisters resembling small milk-churns, then flown 8,000 miles from the U.S. to cities such as Delhi and Bombay, where they are implanted.
the women who incubate and hatch these identikit children would be better compared to brood mares.  They are so desperate to feed, clothe and educate their own families that they are prepared to risk being shunned by their husbands and communities for a fee of up to £4,000; an amount they wouldn’t earn in ten years working in their traditional jobs as domestic servants. All they need do to reap this vast sum — or so these often illiterate souls are told when they make agreements often put together by shady fixers — is to lie around watching TV all day, eating nutritious food they would never ordinarily be able to afford, and be dosed with vitamins and hormones.
the sale of cheap, designer babies, made from Ukrainian eggs and British sperm, concocted in an American lab, and spawned in a factory in the backstreets of India, should send chills down the spine.

Thousands of pills filled with powdered human baby flesh discovered by customs officials in South Korea

Thousands of pills filled with powdered human flesh have been discovered by customs officials in South Korea, it was revealed today.  The capsules are in demand because they are viewed as being a medicinal 'cure-all'.

The grim trade is being run from China where corrupt medical staff are said to be tipping off medical companies when babies are aborted or delivered still-born.

The tiny corpses are then bought, stored in household refrigerators in homes of those involved in the trade before they are removed and taken to clinics where they are placed in medical drying microwaves.  Once the skin is tinder dry, it is pummeled into powder and then processed into capsules along with herbs to disguise the true ingredients from health investigators and customs officers.

Never before heard of human tragedies are emerging and not just with children who grow up a hole in their lives because their  daddy was a donor.    Donor daddies can ruin their own marriages.    Sperm donor 'left me for babies

The heartbroken wife of a politician who secretly acted as a sperm donor behind her back says he has left her to be with babies conceived with other women.  Speaking from her home in the United States, Kathy Johnson says her husband Bill has returned to live in New Zealand where he donated sperm to at least 10 women without her knowledge.

"He wants me to move over there. He's not coming back.  I will not chase him to the other side of the world so he can be a part-time father to children he created with other women."

Mrs Johnson said she had fought for five months to save her marriage but could not break her husband's fixation on the babies he had biologically fathered.

"He's back there now. He says he has a commitment to them. He says he created these children and he has a responsibility to them," she says. "I said 'what about your commitment to your wife'. He walked out."

Mrs Johnson is a two-time Mrs America finalist with three children from a former marriage while Mr. Johnson was a candidate for the gubernatorial nomination three years ago in Alabama.

In Aldous Huxley's Brave New World was considered science fiction when it came out.  Who would ever believe that natural procreation would be done away with babies created, decanted and raised in hatcheries and conditioning centers? 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:17 PM | Permalink

‘Nobody has ever grown a nose before.’

Making organ donation a thing of the past - the British lab growing human spare parts

'This is a nose we’re growing for a patient next month,’ Professor Alexander Seifalian says matter-of-factly, plucking a Petri dish from the bench beside him.  Inside is an utterly lifelike appendage, swimming in red goo. Alongside it is another dish containing an ear.

‘It’s a world first,’ he says smiling.

 Prof Alexander Salefallian

Seifalian leads University College London’s (UCL) Department of Nanotechnology and Regenerative Medicine, which he jokingly calls the ‘human body parts store’. Seifalian and his team are focusing on growing replacement organs and body parts to order using a patient's own cells

As he takes me on a tour of his lab I’m bombarded with one medical breakthrough after another. At one desk he picks up a glass mould that shaped the trachea – windpipe – used in the world’s first synthetic organ transplant.  At another are the ingredients for the revolutionary nano material at the heart of his creations, and just beyond that is a large machine with a pale, gossamer-thin cable inside that’s pulsing with what looks like a heartbeat. It’s an artery.

‘We are the first in the world working on this,’ Seifalian says casually.

‘Other groups have tried to tackle nose replacement with implants but we’ve found they don’t last,’ says Adelola Oseni, one of Seifalian’s team. ‘They migrate, the shape of the nose changes. But our one will hold itself completely, as it’s an entire nose shape made out of polymer.’

Looking like very thin Latex rubber, the polymer is made up of billions of molecules, each measuring just over one nanometre (a billionth of a metro), or 40,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Working at molecular level allows the material itself to be intricately detailed.

‘Inside this nano material are thousands of small holes,’ says Seifalian. ‘Tissue grows into these and becomes part of it. It becomes the same as a nose and will even feel like one.’

When the nose is transferred to the patient, it doesn’t go directly onto the face but will be placed inside a balloon inserted beneath the skin on their arm.  After four weeks, during which time skin and blood vessels can grow, the nose can be monitored, then it can be transplanted to the face.

At the Mayo Clinic, similar exciting work is going on as they as also Growing Your Own Organs, in this case, heart tissue.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:55 AM | Permalink

A lot of people aren't working

The Washington Post on The shrinking labor participation rate

If the same percentage of adults were in the workforce today as when Barack Obama took office, the unemployment rate would be 11.1 percent. If the percentage was where it was when George W. Bush took office, the unemployment rate would be 13.1 percent.

 Job-Losses April2012
chart from

David Goldman on the Disappearing Labor Force  with lots of charts.

The big news in Friday’s employment report was not the miserable 115,000 jobs the economy added in April, but the disappearance of 340,000 workers from the labor force. We haven’t seen unemployment on this scale since the Great Depression. Indeed, since Obama took office, the labor force participation rate has fallen from 66% to 63% as almost 5 million American adults stopped looking for work. About a fifth of working-age Americans aren’t working — and a fifth of all personal income is transfer payments.
Not since the 1970s has the overall labor force participation rate been this low.  As women began entering the labor force in large numbers, the overall participation rose. Truly alarming, though, is the labor force participation rate for men:
has just fallen below the 70% mark for the first time in history. Again, the number means that 3 out of 10 working-age American men who are not in prison or the armed forces are not counted in the labor force. They are not looking for work to begin with.

For Americans with only a high school diploma, the results are even more dismal: fewer than 3 out of 5 Americans with only a high school education are counted in the labor forceFor Americans without a high school diploma, the labor force participation rate is only 45%. Fewer than half are counted in the labor force, that is. The official unemployment rate for the least-educated cohort is 12.5%. That means that fewer than 2 out of 5 adult Americans without a H.S. diploma not in the military or prison actually have a job.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:00 AM | Permalink

The largest army in the world

Via American Digest comes this astonishing fact from Curmudgeonly & Skeptical, There were over 600,000 hunters this season in Wisconsin.  Allow me to restate that number in another way

Over the last several months, Wisconsin's hunters became the eighth largest army in the world. More men under arms than in Iran. More than France and Germany combined. These men deployed to the woods of a "single" American state, Wisconsin, to hunt with firearms, and no one was killed.

That number pales in comparison to the 750,000 who hunted the woods of "Pennsylvania" and Michigan's 700,000 hunters, all of whom have now returned home safely. Toss in a quarter million hunters in West Virginia and it literally establishes the that the hunters of those four states alone would comprise the largest army in the world. And then add in the total number of hunters in the other 46 states. It's millions more.

The point? America will forever be safe from foreign invasion with that kind of home-grown firepower. Hunting… it's not just a way to fill the freezer. It's a matter of national security. That's why all enemies, foreign and domestic, want to see us disarmed.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:22 AM | Permalink