Monday, October 4, 2010

From repugnant transaction to Nobel Prize in Medicine

The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has today decided to award

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2010

Robert G. Edwards
for the development of in vitro fertilization
From the press release:
"These early studies were promising but the Medical Research Council decided not to fund a continuation of the project. However, a private donation allowed the work to continue. The research also became the topic of a lively ethical debate that was initiated by Edwards himself. Several religious leaders, ethicists, and scientists demanded that the project be stopped, while others gave it their support."

Since then,
"Approximately four million individuals have so far been born following IVF. Many of them are now adult and some have already become parents. A new field of medicine has emerged, with Robert Edwards leading the process all the way from the fundamental discoveries to the current, successful IVF therapy. His contributions represent a milestone in the development of modern medicine."

Afternoon update: Vatican official criticises Nobel win for IVF pioneer
"A Vatican official has said the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Medicine to British IVF pioneer Robert Edwards is "completely out of order".

Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said the award ignored the ethical questions raised by the fertility treatment.
He said IVF had led to the destruction of large numbers of human embryos."

Update 10/6/10: an Op Ed in the NY Times reminds us of some of the early reaction to IVF:
In Vitro Revelation
"Religious groups denounced the two scientists as madmen who were trying to play God. Medical ethicists declared that in vitro fertilization was the first step on a slippery slope toward aberrations like artificial wombs and baby farms.

"Fortunately, Louise Brown was not born a monster, but rather a healthy, 5-pound, 12-ounce blond baby girl."

Further update: here's an NPR broadcast: The Controversies That Still Lie Behind In-Vitro Fertilization?
"The Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded to Robert Edwards yesterday, who developed in vitro fertilization in the 1970. Controversial from its introduction, the practice was initially condemned by the Catholic Church. Today, while many of the original ethical issues have abated, new ones have arisen over questions about the in vitro industry's lack of regulation and the continuing debate surrounding stem cell research.

"Glenn Cohen, co-director of the Petrie-Flom Center, and assistant professof or law at Harvard University, believes the number one controversy today is the safety methods surrounding the practice."

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