Tag Archives: reproduction

Love and marriage in China

Chinese weddingPrevious articles on the “second wives” of well-to-do Chinese men have focused on how unfair it is that mistresses of corrupt officials become exorbitantly wealthy. Or on the government’s foot-dragging in putting marriage databases online. But in an article ostensibly about the branding of luxury goods, Tom Doctoroff, a leading authority on marketing in China, offers a cultural analysis of the phenomenon. (emphasis added)

Because China has never had a humanist revolution, sex and marriage have always been relatively divorced. That is why many Asian cultures have an immensely commercialised and categorised [sex industry]. … [I]f a husband is a man of means, and has a significant income, then he can take on a second wife without violating his obligation to his first wife. …

Second Wife culture is just one part of a much bigger and more interesting area which is the difference between love and marriage in China and the West. Marriage in the west is rooted in romantic passion, and although that passion evolves over time we basically assume that if it’s is [sic] gone from marriage it’s a shallow marriage. Yes, there are other concerns that surround it – children, money – but it’s not the core of the relationship.

In China it’s fundamentally true that a marriage is not between two individuals, it’s between two clans. Marriage is a way that people connect into a broader society in which the individual is not the basic productive unit. This has always been the case.

In China, a romance is not ideal unless it is also accompanied by commitment. In Chinese, when we translate “a diamond is forever”, we don’t mean that passion lasts forever. It translates as “he will do anything for you, forever”. And that’s why people buy a lot of things for their mistresses – that affection needs to be demonstrated, too. Read more


Links of Interest: Modern Reproduction

Should This Be the Last Generation? (The New York Times)

Octomom babiesA provocative essay by philosopher Peter Singer on whether we should reproduce, with David Benatar’s Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence as a starting point.

Have you ever thought about whether to have a child? If so, what factors entered into your decision? Was it whether having children would be good for you, your partner and others close to the possible child, such as children you may already have, or perhaps your parents? … Are the interests of a future child a reason for bringing that child into existence? And is the continuance of our species justifiable in the face of our knowledge that it will certainly bring suffering to innocent future human beings?

‘Last Generation?’: A Response (The New York Times)

There was a huge response to Singer’s essay, and he replies in this article.

Even if relatively few people engage in ethical thinking before deciding whether to reproduce, the decisions are important for those who do. And since public policies affect the birthrate, we ought to be giving some thought to whether it is, other things being equal, good for there to be fewer people. Of course, in our present environmental crisis other things are not equal, but the underlying question of the value of bringing human beings into the world should still play a role in decisions that affect the size of future generations.

Study: Kids of Lesbian Parents Are Well-Adjusted (WebMD)

”Contrary to assertions from people opposed to same-sex parenting, we found that the 17-year-olds scored higher in psychological adjustment in areas of competency and lower in problem behaviors than the normative age-matched sample of kids raised in traditional families with a mom and a dad.” … How to explain the good results? “These are not accidental children,” Gartrell tells WebMD.

9/11 link to rise in male foetal death rate, study says (BBC News)

The stress caused by the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center may have led to an increase in miscarriages of male fetuses. … [This] support[s] the theory of “communal bereavement” … acute mental distress related to a major national event, like 9/11, even if there is no direct connection to those who died or were involved in these events. Pregnant mothers are thought to be particularly prone to this experience, as are unborn baby boys.

Read more


Links of Interest: Sperm donors, egg donors, and surrogates

Are Sperm Donors Really Anonymous Anymore? (Slate)

Egg and sperm fertilizationIn an age of sophisticated genetic testing, the concept of anonymity is rapidly fading. With some clever sleuthing—tests that can track down ancestral origins, donor numbers, and bits of biographical information—parents and offspring can find out the donors. “With DNA testing and Google, there’s no such thing as anonymity anymore,” says Wendy Kramer, the founder of the Donor Sibling Registry. “Donors are choosing anonymity because they’re not educated. If they were properly educated on the consequences, then many would choose not to donate.” …

[I]t will become increasingly difficult for a donor to hide, which means the moral decision of whether to trace him and ignore his request for anonymity will rest less on the banks and more on the parents and offspring. If DNA testing does become more ubiquitous, it may be that even a very few traits will make the men traceable. What will they do then? wonders Kramer. “Create men without DNA?”

Mapping the God of Sperm (Newsweek)

[Kirk] Maxey, 51, happens to be one of the most prolific sperm donors in the country. Between 1980 and 1994, he donated at a Michigan clinic twice a week. He’s looked at the records of his donations, multiplied by the number of individual vials each donation produced, and estimated the success of each vial resulting in a pregnancy. By his own calculations, he concluded that he is the biological father of nearly 400 children, spread across the state [Michigan] and possibly the country.

Doctor Accused of Inseminating Patient with Own Sperm (WPIX)

A fertility doctor based in Connecticut is accused of using his own sperm – instead of a patient’s husband’s – to impregnate a woman who ultimately gave birth to twins. … According to court records, after the child was born both parents – one of whom is African American and the other Caucasian – were shocked at the baby’s fair complexion. … “DNA testing performed at the suggestion of the twins’ pediatrician showed that [the wife] was the mother but that [the husband] was not the biological father.” … Dr. Ramaley claims the whole ordeal was an accident.

Sperm Banks Can Be Sued Under Product Liability Laws, Federal Judge Rules (Law.com)

In the first decision of its kind, a federal judge has ruled that a sperm bank may be sued under product liability laws for failing to detect that a sperm donor had a genetic defect. … Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas N. O’Neill Jr. cleared the way for a 13-year-old mentally retarded girl from Pennsylvania to sue a New York sperm bank under the theory that the sperm used to conceive her had a defect known as “Fragile X,” a mutation known to cause a syndrome of maladies that include mental retardation and behavioral disorders. … [In response to the mother’s inquiries,] doctors at [sperm bank] Idant continued to assure her that Brittany’s developmental problems were not related to Fragile X and couldn’t possibly be the result of the sperm that was purchased through Idant.

$35,000 for One of My Eggs? (Hastings Center Bioethics Forum)

My eggs are ripe for the taking – I am a 22-year-old female Yale graduate. On a semi-regular basis in college, I opened the school newspaper to find advertisements soliciting my demographic to donate. … Nearly all offered high sums of money for prospective donors, ranging from $5,000 to $35,000. … High payments could lead to “undue inducement and exploitation” that cause women to discount the physical and emotional risks associated with donation. Such payments could also lead prospective donors to conceal medical information relevant to their biological offspring, make donor oocytes available only to the very wealthy, commodify gametes and devalue human life, or promote the birth of persons with traits deemed “socially desirable.” … In addition to physical risks, young women [donors] face psychological ones, such as stress caused by feelings of attachment to the eggs or resulting offspring.

Read more


My Daddy’s name is donor

My Daddy's name is donorWhat’s it like to have an anonymous sperm donor for a father?

Many people think that because these young people resulted from wanted pregnancies, how they were conceived doesn’t matter to them. But … when they are adults, sperm donor offspring struggle with serious losses from being purposefully denied knowledge of, or a relationship with, their sperm donor biological fathers.

That’s the conclusion of a provocative research study that compared adults fathered by sperm donors with adults adopted as infants or raised by biological parents. It’s estimated that 30,000 to 60,000 children each year are fathered by sperm donors, and another 6,000 children are conceived by egg donation. By now there may be as many as a million American adults with a sperm donor for a genetic dad.

What’s not to like about a donor daddy?

Publicity for this study – fifteen major findings that were featured — included some neutral findings (donor conception is not “just like” adoption). But the emphasis was on decidedly negative conclusions.

The study reveals that, on average, young adults conceived through sperm donation are hurting more, are more confused, and feel more isolated from their families. They fare worse than their peers raised by biological parents on important outcomes such as depression, delinquency, and substance abuse.

Among the major findings:

• Young adults conceived through sperm donation (or “donor offspring”) experience profound struggles with their origins and identities.

• Family relationships for donor offspring are more often characterized by confusion, tension, and loss.

• Donor offspring often worry about the implications of interacting with – and possibly forming intimate relationships with – unknown, blood-related family members.

• Donor offspring are significantly more likely than those raised by their biological parents to struggle with serious, negative outcomes such as delinquency, substance abuse, and depression, even when controlling for socio-economic and other factors.

Read more


A raffle for free (human) eggs

In vitro fertilization

Source: Babble

At a London seminar promoting American donor eggs for infertile British women, a Virginia infertility clinic offered attendees the chance to win an American woman’s eggs. Also included was a free in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle (a $23,000 value). The reaction, on both sides of the Atlantic, was mixed.

According to The Washington Post, there has been “intense criticism from infertility experts, bioethicists and others in Britain and the United States, who likened the event to a crass, commercial come-on similar to a lottery, with the prize being a human body part.”

“We strongly have the view that using a raffle to determine who will receive treatment with donor eggs is inappropriate,” said a spokesman for the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, which regulates infertility care in Britain. “It trivializes altruistic donation, whether of eggs, sperm or embryos.”

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Still useful after all these years: The spleen

The spleen

Source: danielle2

While some anatomical organs are dismissed as totally unnecessary (see Still useful after all these years: The appendix), others are considered useful but dispensable. Consider the spleen.

Located on the left side of the body, under the ribs and behind the stomach, the spleen is about five to six inches long and one and a half inches thick. It weighs about six ounces (the weight of a can of tuna).

Until recently, we thought the spleen was limited to filtering out red blood cells and supporting the immune system.

What we already knew the spleen did for us

Red blood cell gets old, tired and damaged after 120 days or so, at which point we make new replacement cells. The spleen filters out the old blood cells. Not only does the spleen remove the aging cells. It recycles them. It breaks down the hemoglobin so the liver can use it for bile, and it makes the iron in hemoglobin available for the manufacture of new red blood cells.
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Sanjay Gupta, George Lundberg, and Obama’s Enneagram type

Sanjay Gupta

Back in November, following a two-hour meeting in Chicago, president-elect Obama offered Sanjay Gupta the position of Surgeon General. (This from a presumably reliable source: Gupta’s mother, Damayanti.) Gupta has been prudently tight-lipped about the appointment ever since the Washington Post broke the story in early January.

Gupta, the chief medical correspondent for CNN, discussed the situation with his employer in mid-December. He no longer covers health policy stories for CNN, but he can still be seen on “House Call,” his weekend health and wellness feature. When a plane crashed into the Hudson, CNN called on Gupta to discuss hypothermia, and when Senator Edward Kennedy collapsed at the post-inauguration luncheon, he was similarly “pressed into duty.”

The majority of press coverage has been favorable. Ezra Klein, in a “Momma said wonk you out” column, says the 1993 Clinton healthcare reform failed because it didn’t have a media strategy. The selection of Gupta signals that the Obama administration realizes it needs “a far more sophisticated media operation.”

On the other hand, Fox News refers to Gupta as “the TV doctor,” as if he were a cast member of General Hospital. Michigan Congressman John Conyers, a strong supporter of universal health care, opposes the nomination. He’s promoting Dr. Herb Smitherman, a public health advocate from Detroit.

There’s also support for Dr. George Lundberg as Surgeon General. Lundberg, a surgeon like Gupta, was the longest-running editor of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association (17 years). He was abruptly fired by the AMA when he chose to publish the research article “Would you say you ‘had sex’ if…?“, a survey on the definition of “having sex” among college students. The offense was not simply the subject, but the timing. The publication date of the article was January 20, 1999. The Monica-Lewinsky-inspired impeachment trial of President Clinton had begun on January 7. Lundberg was fired on January 15. The AMA, of course, did not cite this incident as the reason for firing Lundberg. (For those curious about the results of the survey, see the footnote below.)

Lundberg, the author of Severed Trust: Why American Medicine Hasn’t Been Fixed, has a lot to recommend him. See the extensive commentary on the post “Dr. George Lundberg for Surgeon General” on The Health Care Blog (THCB). One thing I don’t see mentioned at THCB is that Lundberg’s appointment would be a slap in the face to the AMA, assuming 10 years isn’t long enough to let bygones be bygones. Such lack of diplomacy would be highly uncharacteristic of Obama, who strikes me as a Nine on the Enneagram.

The Enneagram is a spiritually based personality typing system, associated with Gurdjieff, Oscar Ichazo, and Claudio Naranjo. Type Nine on the Enneagram is called the Peacemaker. Since I’m a Nine myself, my opinion on this is highly subjective.

Here’s a cartoon about the nine Enneagram types that I think illustrates how we tend to see in Obama what we value in ourselves. That’s a good quality in a leader. If Obama thinks Sanjay Gupta is the right choice for Surgeon General, I’m inclined to agree.

Barack Obama Supporters Come In All Types
Obama Supporter Enneagram Types Cartoons

Cartoons by Elizabeth Wagele

Footnote: Would you say you “had sex” if…?

The JAMA article doesn’t say this, but one conclusion you could draw from the survey of college students is that they make a distinction between sexual activity that can lead to pregnancy and behavior that leaves one technically a virgin. The research survey was done in 1991 at a midwestern college and included students from 29 states. Close to 80% considered themselves moderate to conservative politically. Sixty percent reported that what happened between President Clinton and Ms. Lewinsky does not qualify as having “had sex.”

The medical purpose of the survey was to ensure that public health officials are gathering accurate information relevant to disease transmission. The sexual activity with the greatest risk of transmitting an HIV infection did not qualify as having “had sex” for 20 percent of those surveyed. In a situation comparable to that alleged between Clinton and Lewinsky, 75 percent of students would not list the other party as a sexual partner. (This latter statistic is from a later (1996) survey.)

Sources and additional links:

(Hover over book titles for more info.)

Editor, Gupta’s Surgeon General Appointment Runs Into Opposition, The Link, January 26, 2009

Reuters, Obama offers CNN’s Gupta US surgeon general post, January 6, 2008

Brian Stelter, Still Calling Dr. Gupta, The New York Times, January 20, 2009

Ezra Klein, The Three Constituencies for Health Reform. The American Prospect, January 8, 2009

FOX News Watch, January 10, 2009

Kenneth P. Vogel, Conyers: Gupta not up to S.G. post, Yahoo! News, January 8, 2009

Stephanie A. Sanders and June Machover Reinisch, Would you say you “had sex” if…?,
JAMA 281 (3), January 20, 1999, 275-7.

George Lundberg, Severed Trust: Why American Medicine Hasn’t Been Fixed

Brian Klepper, Dr. George Lundberg for Surgeon General, The Health Care Blog, January 25, 2009.

Here’s an article that argues Obama is an Enneagram Nine with a One wing (the same as Abe Lincoln).
Barack Obama’s Enneagram Type: The Peacemaker (9w1)

Here’s a blog post that labels Obama an Enneagram Six, based on his community leadership experience, and types Michelle a One.

Here’s a site where you can peruse or join the discussion of Obama’s Enneagram type.