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Genetic Crossroads
August 20th, 2003

The 25th birthday of Louise Brown, the first child born via in-vitro fertilization, was a significant news story around the world in late July. Most newspapers covered it. Many relied on wire-service reports, which tended to focus on the large party thrown in Cambridge (UK), of which Ms. Brown was the star, along with about 1,000 other former "test-tube babies." In general, as the London Observer (7/27/03) put it, "all the conundrums were put on one side yesterday—for a short while, as parents simply enjoyed the party and relished the fact they had beaten the odds." http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,1006702,00.html

In general, coverage was supprtive of IVF and of at least most of the related technologies currently in use. There was frequent mention of improved though still low success rates, and occasionally of the difficulty of access to fertility treatments because of their cost, particularly in the US (CNN, 7/25/03; AP, 7/24/03). One BBC story focused largely on the lack of fertility treatment in Africa, noting that "IVF remains the preserve of the rich."

Some commentators used the perceived success of IVF to warn against tighter regulatory oversight. Juliet Tizzard, director of Britain's Progress Educational Trust, said, "Perhaps one lesson we can learn from the past 25 years is to trust scientists a little more and allow them the space to show how they, like the IVF pioneers, can do good in the world." In her view, at least in Britain, "science is actually running a long way behind regulation." http://www.bionews.org.uk/commentary.lasso?storyid=1742

Several low-key human-interest stories, especially in Britain and Australia, featured people who had used IVF successfully. One human-interest story (in the July 29 London Guardian) covered a prominent actress who has had a so-far unsuccessful experience. That story noted that "accounts of the emotional and physical pain of fertility treatments are often presented in the media with their raw edges softened by accompanying pictures of adoring parents and their much longed-for baby." http://www.guardian.co.uk/health/story/0,3605,1007729,00.html

The Los Angeles Times provided what may have been the most substantial coverage in the US, with a feature on PGD (7/21), and an overview of the history (7/24). The July 21 story quotes CGS associate director Marcy Darnovsky and City University of New York sociologist Barbara Katz Rothman, among others.

Other useful commentaries included:


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