A broad array of opinions have been voiced this week – mostly condemning, of a 62 year old first time mother who delivered a baby by caesarean section in Victoria this week. Her baby was 6 weeks premature but is reportedly in a stable condition in neonatal intensive care.
The Tasmanian mother, who conceived using a donated egg in an IVF unit outside of Australia, has a partner who is 78 years of age.
This case raises the question: Has IVF now opened a Pandora’s box that will result in a generation of orphaned children? How will these parents cope with the challenging and intensive needs of their baby, child and later teenager? Will the parents survive to see their baby into adulthood? Who will step in when the worst-case scenario happens?
Personally in my practice, I have not seen a single patient in this age bracket seeking fertility treatment – this situation is far from the norm and also far from what most 60+ year olds would contemplate for their future.
I also think that examples such as this couple are probably going to become even more unusual moving forward. Why? Because of the incredible advances in IVF technology that have occurred over the last 20 years.
When this patient was in her 40’s, childless and approaching the end of her natural fertility, she tried 1990’s IVF (then at a relatively early stage of the technology’s development) and still could not have a baby.
If the same woman was in her 40’s and infertile today, her life could be very different as she could have access to a donor egg at that time, or even a gestational surrogate if other health reasons restricted her fertility. For this reason, I think it will be rare moving forward that women facing infertility will delay using technology until their 60’s in this generation.
I would suggest that for years this person has carried a tremendous sorrow and probably always regretted not having been able to carry and raise a child. We may look at this desire skeptically and call the downstream actions of this couple irresponsible, but we should not forget the depth of this hurt. The World Health Organisation acknowledges the right to seek fertility as a fundamental human right and technically, their definition does not carry an age restriction.
Personally, my beliefs align with the philosophy at Melbourne IVF and I will treat women using a donor egg only up until their 51st birthday. Patients should know they could now access Melbourne IVF recruited egg donors who comply with Australian and specifically Victorian standards. If you haven’t been able to have a baby and are considering using a donor egg, I would advise you to choose to have your treatment in Australia where an IVF specialist like myself will adhere to expert supported and evidence-based clinical and ethical standards of care.