Dr Connell On Contraception


Sir, - Dr Desmond Connell claims that the child that is planned or produced by the decision of the parents may suffer from the effects of negative parental attitudes later in life as the parents will consider the child as a form of product rather than a gift to be welcomed. He also says that no child could be happy in such circumstances.

I wonder where Dr Connell has found proven scientific evidence of unhappiness and dissatisfaction among the thousands of children born through in-vitro fertilisation since the birth of Louise Brown in 1978. The child born through IVF is not regarded as a product by anyone, let alone by the parents who have struggled emotionally, physically and financially to bring that child into existence. For those couples who must avail of IVF their child is the most welcome gift imaginable after the pain and trauma of infertility. They have no choice but to plan their child, as they are unable to conceive a child through the usual means.

Of course they have an ambition to have a child - they are no different from any other couple who marry and hope to become parents! If they are unfortunate enough to suffer from fertility problems then they perhaps have to invest more of their time and energy into conception than most couples. This does not mean they will consider the child born to them as anything other than a wonderful gift to be welcomed as much as, if not more than, a child conceived without recourse to medical assistance.

It is recognised that at least one in six marriages are infertile. This is perhaps a conservative estimate, as these figures account only for the couples who come to medical attention. For these couples infertility is a fact of life which may lead to considerable distress, marital disharmony, depression, loss of self-esteem, feelings of isolation from friends and family and a grief akin to the loss of a natural child. Does Dr Connell suggest that couples who live with the pain of childlessness should simply grit their teeth and accept it rather than take advantage of medical advances to try to overcome their physical difficulty?

Would Dr Connell also suggest that people who suffer from other medical illnesses should similarly put up with it and not seek medical treatment? IVF may be regarded as an interference with nature - but so too are heart, lung and kidney transplants!

It is objectionable that Dr Connell would seek to impose further difficulties on infertile couples who undergo IVF by suggesting to them that they are merely pursuing their own selfish objectives in trying to conceive a child and that their child will come to resent them and be unhappy. Would Dr Connell not agree that even if this were the case, which I strongly dispute, it is nonetheless better for the child to be born than not to be born? - Yours, etc., Deirdre Madden,

Lecturer in Law, University College, Cork.