domingo, 17 de abril de 2016

BioEdge: Should students learn about declining fertility?

BioEdge: Should students learn about declining fertility?

Should students learn about declining fertility?

Is this a straw in the wind? After decades of educating students in the fine art of suppressing their fertility, the British Fertility Society sponsored a seminar this week about the controversial notion of teaching high school students about preserving it.

This was a concern of the late Lisa Jardine, the former head of the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority, the UK’s fertility watchdog. She once said:

If one in seven of us in the modern world is going to have problems with infertility then instead of all the teaching at school being about how to stop getting pregnant someone had better start teaching about how you do get pregnant, because there are going to be a lot of extremely disappointed people out there.

At the moment, British schools are obliged to refer to Sex and Relationship Education Guidance, a Government document which has not been updated since its publication in 2000.

The only reference to fertility in the 2000 guidance is to “some medical uses of hormones, including the control and promotion of fertility”. The organisers of the seminar pointed out that the topic of fertility decline with age is “Conspicuous by its absence”.

Mentioning the topic of declining fertility is surprisingly controversial -- partly because of political arguments over sex education in schools. But there are also different ideas about whether a policy priority of avoiding teenage pregnancy clashes with teaching students how to preserve their fertility.

As well, some experts feel that discussion of fertility might add to pressure on women to have children early in life. It might also serve the commercial interests of IVF clinics who are beginning to market egg freezing as a way to have a successful career and to postpone childbearing.

Adam Balen, chairman of the British Fertility Society, told the Daily Mail that sex-ed classes should include information on the best age to have a child. Many girls, he said, are unaware how quickly their fertility declines with age and they are dazzled by the babies of ageing celebrities who neglect to mention that they used IVF, donor eggs or surrogacy.

Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust, told the newspaper: “So much sex education has placed such a strong emphasis on how to avoid pregnancy, that it has frequently presented a very negative image of childbearing … and some, to their cost, are leaving it too late.”
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Former Austraiian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who is now 86, has publicly backed euthanasia, even for teenagers. He says that he fears the indignity of "losing his marbles" -- something he is trying to keep at bay with crosswords and suduko. He told euthanasia activist Andrew Denton that his second wife, Blanche d'Alpuget, will know what to do if he ever reaches that stage. 
Acting as a poster boy for euthanasia is a sad end to a distinguished career. But it is, in a way, understandable. Dementia must be terrifying for people without adequate family support because of fractured relationships. And Mr Hawke, sadly, fractured his in a very public way by divorcing his first wife Hazel, who had been his spouse when he was Prime Minister, to marry his biographer, Ms d'Alpuget. 
Hazel went on to be one of the most respected and best-loved women in public life in Australia. People praised her honesty and courage when she admitted that she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. She even published a book about it. Eventually she had to enter a nursing home where she lived for four years before her death. Mr Hawke was not there to help her. 
For all of his intelligence and charm, Bob Hawke is wrong about euthanasia. Dementia is a disability and a civilised society does not solve the problem of disability by killing the disabled. The real indignity comes when the "abled" neglect their responsibility to care for the weak and vulnerable

Michael Cook

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