Mom Claps Back at Doctor Who Said IVF Allows ‘Disease-Prone’ People to Have Babies

The fertility doctor claims IVF interferes with natural selection.
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By Stephanie Grassullo, Associate Editor
Published May 22, 2019
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Allowing couples who can’t conceive naturally to have babies via in vitro fertilization (IVF) is changing human evolution, fertility doctor Hans Hanevik claims. Hanevick heads the fertility department at Norway’s Telemark Hospital, and says the process allows defective genes to be passed on to children, causing future generations to be “genetically adapted to an environment in which reproduction is increasingly dependent on technological intervention.”

The doctor is expected to present his research at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Vienna next month, but needless to say he’s caused an outrage among parents who’ve had to rely on IVF to have children. Jules, the mom behind Hope Squad a blog dedicated to supporting people who are trying to start families with the help of IVF, adoption or surrogacy, wrote an open letter to Hanevick to stress just how damaging his words are.

Jules experienced premature ovarian failure (POF) when she was a teenager, and as a result has struggled to have kids. She welcomed her first child through adoption, and is now trying to give him a sibling using IVF.

“‘Disease-prone’ does not necessarily correlate to those needing IVF,” she writes. “Whilst infertility is [classified] as a disease by the World Health Organization (WHO), that is not the same as saying this is a condition that would be passed down to a resulting child.”

First things first, the mom points out her issue isn’t with research on IVF, but rather Hanevick’s seemingly baseless and generalized findings on the topic. “While I am sure most people undergoing fertility treatment would welcome sound research into the effects—we care about our own health and that of our hoped for future children—we are not the often media-portrayed version of desperate women doing anything just to be mum…You show very little empathy by sharing your hypothesis without actually backing it up with serious research first.”

She then uses the remainder of her letter to call out certain claims she would like the doctor to divulge on. For starters, it’s not accurate to say every couple undergoing IVF has “faulty genes.” “A vast amount of people going thorough IVF are doing so not because of a genetic disease, but because of age related issues, infertility diseases that are not known to be genetically passed or also the rise we have seen in IVF for same sex couples.”

Another group the doctor ignored are the individuals who actually use IVF to avoid a genetic condition from being passed on through embryo selection. Not to mention, many times couples use the embryo and sperm from donor men and women who have had to undergo screening for genetic and hereditary conditions.

The mom raises even more interesting points in response to his comments about altering natural selection. “By asserting that imperfect genes should not be passed along, are you also asserting this should be the case in the general population, where far more would be passed than in the IVF population,” she comments. “For example, heart disease, arthritis, asthma, Down syndrome, Alzheimers, some cancers, acne, color blindness, epilepsy. Are you saying people who may be passing on these should not have children either?”

“Natural selection would have some of these people not survive, let alone reproduce. Thanks to the miracle of medicine, they do,” she writes. “They contribute to this beautiful world, made all the more amazing because of the diversity within it.”

She begs the doctor to compare his findings to four key areas:

  1. The number of IVF babies who carry genetic mutations in relation to non-IVF pregnancies
  2. The number of infertility issues that may have been passed to children through IVF
  3. The number of IVF cases that resulted from infertility issues that were genetically passed
  4. The number of people with genetic defects that are also fertile

“Those going through infertility are an already disadvantaged and vulnerable population,” she writes. “We do want the best for our hoped for future children, however we do also have high standards and [expectations for] medical professionals, such as yourself, [to] do the research before making claims and courting the media.”

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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