Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Nobel Peace Prize for Inventor of IVF

This is copied from Dr. Sher's Blog:

"Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe introduced human in vitro fertilization with the birth of the world’s first IVF baby, Louise Brown in 1978. In the ensuing 3+ decades an estimated 4 million IVF births have brought tremendous joy to their blessed parent and hope to millions of other infertile individuals and couples.

The granting of a Nobel Prize to the remaining survivor of the Steptoe-Edwards team, although having come late, is nevertheless highly laudable. I can tell you from personal experience that Patrick Steptoe never believed that he and his partner, Robert Edwards, would ever be recognized by the medical fraternity for the pioneering work they had done.

My mind goes back to an evening in the latter part of the 80’s when my wife, Charlene and I had dinner with Patrick Steptoe at the Carnelian Room ( a beautiful restaurant atop the Bank of America building in San Franciso) on the very last day he spent in the United States. Dr Steptoe had been attending an American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) congress in the Bay Area. Towards the end of the evening, he broke the news to us that he had advanced prostate cancer and that he would probably never see us again. He went on to express disappointment at what he called the stifling bureaucracy and the political infighting inherent in our field, which had denied him and Dr. Robert Edwards due recognition for their work. He was convinced that they were destined to be overlooked for a long time. I remember telling him that this would not prevail and that ultimately and inevitably he and Dr. Edwards would be recognized for their pioneering work in the IVF field. He insisted that this would not be during either of their lifetimes. We drove him back to his hotel and watched sadly as he waved good bye from the wheelchair in which he was being transported from our car, back into the hotel.

The reason for this story is to highlight the significance of the great honor that has finally been bestowed on the remaining member of the team, Robert Edwards, now 85 years of age and in poor health. It is certainly well deserved, but indeed, long overdue. I can imagine Dr. Steptoe looking down and smiling on this.

What can I add about Robert Edwards that has not already been said? He is a brilliant and honest scientist without whom the advent of human IVF might well have been set back by a few decades. Dr. Edwards can be regarded as the elder statesman of the field. His innovations, guidance and wisdom are legendary. Every time he delivers a keynote address at a medical conference you can hear a pin drop. There is always something new that he has to offer, suggest and contribute. Above all, Robert Edwards is a gentleman and a mentor to many. I recall visiting him at his home in England some time back and discussing some of my own ideas with him. You could just feel that you were in the presence of greatness. And his advice which was always direct and relevant, was invariably delivered gently and in good taste. To this day, I am always uplifted by his presence and his wisdom.

I find it tragic that after more than 30 years and all the IVF babies that now grace our world, there should still be a quarrel between the Roman Catholic church and our discipline. Surely the time has come to start rethinking the premise upon which the prejudice was based and to bury the hatchet. If intent to do good is a hallmark of piety then both Drs. Steptoe and Edwards will receive the ultimate reward. After all, there are at least 4 million humans that have resulted from IVF, many of whom are of the Catholic persuasion, and all of whom are no less precious than any other of God’s creations."

Thank to those men for inventing IVF so that my husband and I have a chance at having a baby of our own!!!

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