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Questions answered
Dr Edwards responds to your queries
 real 28k

Tuesday, 3 October, 2000, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Test tube baby pioneer Dr Robert Edwards
Forum - Dr Robert Edwards
Put your questions to pioneer Dr Robert Edwards
Dr Robert Edwards is one of the world's leading authorities on the science of fertility treatments.

Starting in 1968, he worked with Dr Patrick Steptoe to turn the dream of test tube babies into reality.

Their work led to the birth of the first child conceived through IVF, Louise Brown, in 1978. Since Louise, more than 1m children have come into the world this way.

Do you want to know how far doctors could go in the future - or how far Dr Edwards thinks they should go?

Dr Edwards answered your questions on the mind-boggling scientific advances of the past and present, and the complex ethical and legal issues which must be faced in the future.

Mark from Scotland asked whether doctors who used IVF techniques were attempting to "play God".

"I have heard this all my life. I can't accept it. All we are doing is curing the medical defect in the best way we can.

"So many patients have different forms of defect that prevents conception that we have to use a wide variety of techniques to achieve it.

"But our targets are very simple: to produce a happy child for a couple urgently desiring the child. There is no compulsion on anyone."

Marie from Paris asked whether there should be an age limit to stop women from having children through IVF later in life.

"It is a very difficult question and it is getting more difficult as men and women live longer.

"At the present time, of course, a man can conceive at any age. The limit to fertility is the menopause in the women.

"But there are many women today who may wish to defer their children a little later than normal, to their fifties or even later, and I am not sure it is our business to say no because I think it is ultimately the role of the State to decide these things."

Steve from Manchester asked whether cloning techniques should be used to help homosexual couples to have children.

"It is going to be increasingly difficult to question existing technology regarding a homosexual couple when in our society today homosexual couples virtually have the same rights as heterosexual couples.

"We will have to judge all our decisions on this basis that the law insists they are given equal treatment."

Clare in the UK wanted to know why IVF is not more widely available on the NHS and whether the cost of treatment will fall.

"I have been shocked for many years at the very poor approach of the British health service to the treatment of IVF and I admire our European neighbours such as Germany and France where they treat IVF on the national health service or at least give more free cycles.

"There, IVF is not a matter of mortgaging your home or spending your life savings as it is in the UK. This shows to me that these countries are more advanced ethically and socially than we are in this particular approach.

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See also:

11 Jul 00 | Background Briefings
The future of fertility
02 Oct 00 | Health
Fertility hope for cancer women
06 Jul 00 | Health
Woman sells house to pay for IVF
27 Jun 00 | Health
Laser bursts help 'hatch' embryos

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