Friday, December 13, 2013

Should women over 50 be allowed the choice to have children ?

I was recently invited to participate in a Debate at a Medical Conference on the topic – Should women over 50 be allowed the choice to have children ?

This is something  I have strong feelings about, and here’s a screenshot of the presentation I gave.
As regards whether the procedure is ethical or not, I actually feel it unethical to refuse  ! Doctors need to respect the patient’s autonomy; and allow them to make well-informed choices for themselves !

A key question is -  How old is too old ? And who decides ? Typically, many countries will pass a low, which makes offering IVF treatment to women of a particular age illegal. However, these decisions are made by bureaucrats, who are often heartless and mindless. Isn’t it far better to trust that doctors will help the patient sitting in front of them to make the right decision for herself. How can one size possibly fit all ? Shouldn’t this decision be personalized and customized ? ( Every woman after 40 knows that the definition of an older person is someone who is 10 years older than you are !)

One argument is that of the slippery slope ? If allow a 51 year old, then where will you stop ? 52 ? 53 ? 65 ? On the other hand, we also need to consider the reverse slippery slope ! If e are refusing a 50 year old, then why not refuse a 49 year old ? 48 ? 42 ?

The problem is that this smacks of ageism. Teenage mothers make far worse parents than older mothers. However, just because they can get pregnant on their own, we don’t criticise them !  And just because older women need medical assistance, we get on our high horses, and start preaching to them as to what the right age to get pregnant is ?

Sure, these are unconventional families. But non-traditional families have become increasingly common, so why discriminate against older women ?

There’s no question that  50 is the new 40 – and women have long life expectancies today, with lots of energy ! We cannot use old-fashioned obsolete rules which we designed for an earlier time anymore.
And doesn’t this smack of gender discrimination ? Many men will secretly envy the 80 year old billionaire who fathers a child with a hot 25 year old !  Why not allow older women the same privilege – after all, biology is not destiny !

We also need to remember that we are not talking of the run of the mill 50 year old ! These are wise, mature affluential women, who have made a well planned decision. It does require courage to ignore conventional social mores and have a baby at 50 – and we need to admire their guts for being willing to follow their convictions ! These women often have much more love to give to their children, because they are so deeply desired and wanted. Older mothers have much more maturity – and will often make better parents. Let’s not forget that grandmoms are better at mothering than mothers !

What about the criticism that they don’t have  enough energy to devote to their kids ?  What about the typical 25 year old career moms who are stuck in their office all day long – where do they have the luxury to spend time with their kids ? And these women can often afford to have staff and help to assist them in their parenting chores.

No I am not saying we should “ Just do it” and offer it to everyone over the age of 50 who comes to us. Careful medical screening and counseling is needed – and all good doctors will offer this. After all, it’s not the calendar age of the woman which is an issue – it’s her biological age !

My request is that doctors should stop being so arrogant . Just because they are medical experts does not mean that they have all the answers. It’s not fair to offer a blanket No to all these women, just because they crossed a particular age. Doing so just forces
women into becoming reproductive exiles, in their hunt for a doctor who can help them fulfill their personal reproductive desires.

Doctors can no longer afford to assume that patients will continue putting them on pedestals . We need to learn to be more empathetic, and listen to what our patients want. After all, we need to put our patients first !

1 comment:

  1. Brilliantly written! It is refreshing to see that there are spiritually, emotionally and intellectually evolved people like you out their who have a voice that can make a difference. WE need more people like you in this world. Thank you for restoring my faith in humanity. I am 42 and currently preparing myself for IVF#3. There is so much negativity towards women my age trying to conceive. Thank God there are so many older women in the same boat as me and like you said we are capable and have the means to being much better parents than when we were younger. I am extremely healthy, fit and financially secure enough to raise a child and I can stay home and spend time with my child! Thank you for making my day. :D

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