March 1, 2024

Are IVF sons inheriting infertility from their dads?

The causes of male infertility are being ignored, at least in the US

A technique used in half of American IVF
births causes many infertile fathers to pass on their infertility to their sons
– sometimes along with other genetic defects, according to an article in the
Boston Globe.

A million babies around the globe have been
born with ICSI. But hundreds, and perhaps thousands of the boys will be born

“Thanks to IVF
and ICSI many babies have been born who wouldn’t have otherwise existed, and
this has brought happiness to countless families. But unlike any other kind of
medical intervention, which can be tested for safety and efficacy on the
population it will affect, fertility techniques by design can’t be tested on
the resulting babies until after they are born. To put it bluntly, we’ve chosen
as a society to carry out a big safety experiment on the first generation of
children we’ve created with these methods.”

US medical
guidelines urge doctors to suggest that men with very low sperm counts be offered
genetic tests before ICSI. But very often these guidelines are not followed. And
many infertile men do not want to be tested, anyway.

What are the ethics
of this, asks Sylvia Pagán

“Infertility is, at
the very least, a medical condition that causes significant emotional distress
and, when fertility treatments are sought, puts the woman, and often her male
partner, through medical procedures that are not without risk. Is it ethical to
knowingly pass down this condition to a child? Does a couple’s right to
reproduce trump that of their future children?”  ~ Boston
Globe, Aug 8

Michael Cook