Thursday, July 16, 2009

How Old Is Too Old?

Maria del Carmen Bousada has died at 69, leaving behind three-year old twin boys:

Beginning in 2005, Bousada underwent hormone treatments to reverse nearly 20 years of menopause and sold her house to pay for in vitro fertilization at the Pacific Fertility Clinic in Los Angeles.

Slender with dark brown hair, she told the clinic she was 55 — the facility's maximum age for single women undergoing the procedure. When her sons were born in December 2006, Guinness World Records said she was the oldest woman on record to give birth.

Dr. Vicken Sahakian, director and owner of the clinic, said Bousada falsified her birth date on documents from Spain.

When he learned of the deception, "I figured something might happen and wind up being a disaster for these kids, and unfortunately I was right," he told The Associated Press.


There is no U.S. law regulating the age of in vitro candidates, but Sahakian said his clinic won't take older women because "I would like the mother ... to basically survive until the kids reach 18."


Allan Pacey, secretary of the British Fertility Society, said the organization recommends that assisted conception generally not be provided to women beyond the natural age of menopause at about 50.

"The rationale ... is that nature didn't design women to have assisted conception beyond the age of the natural menopause, he said. "Once you get into the mid-50s, I think nature is trying to tell us something."

"I think many people would worry about providing fertility treatment to women in their 60s. I think as a general rule, to embark on pregnancy when you may not see your child go to university is potentially a very difficult situation."

So the article tells us that the main reason women shouldn't give birth so very late in life because they might die before the child is fully grown. It's not a bad argument.

Except that we don't use that argument when discussing men who sire children late in life. Take Rupert Murdoch. He had a daughter when he was seventy and another at seventy-two. It's not terribly likely that he will see either of them graduating from college. Yet I haven't seen articles pointing that out.

The argument that women are post-menopausal for a reason might have made a better case than the one this article adopted.