Since Cheryl Pearl Sucher married a New Zealander in 1999, she has been living between two worlds: the Greater New York City area and the Hawkes Bay of New Zealand, two places that are about as far apart on the planet as one can travel. Though she has often felt torn between her very different lives, she has also felt that her life experience and artistic vision has been enhanced by living as both an insider and an outsider in such different but extraordinary places. This interview series is born out her experience between these worlds, and as a published fiction writer, bookseller, journalist, memoirist and avocational musical traveler.
In this edition, Cheryl talks to Robert Klitzman, author of Designing Babies: How Technology is Changing the Ways We Create Children.
Since the first "test tube baby" was born over 40 years ago, In Vitro Fertilization and other Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) have advanced in extraordinary ways, producing millions of babies. An estimated 20% of American couples use infertility services to help them conceive, and that number is growing. Such technologies permit thousands of people, including gay and lesbian couples and single parents, to have offspring. Couples can now transmit or avoid passing on certain genes to their children, including those for chronic disease and, probably sometime soon, height and eye color as well. Prospective parents routinely choose even the sex of their future child and whether or not to have twins. The possibilities of this rapidly developing technology are astounding-especially in the United States, where the procedures are practically unregulated and a large commercial market for buying and selling human eggs is swiftly growing. New gene-editing technology, known as CRISPR, allows for even more direct manipulation of embryos' genes.
As these possibilities are increasingly realized, potential parents, doctors, and policy-makers face complex and critical questions about the use-or possible misuse-of ARTs. Designing Babies confronts these questions, examining the ethical, social, and policy concerns surrounding reproductive technology. Based on in-depth interviews with providers and patients, Robert Klitzman explores how individuals and couples are facing quandaries of whether, when, and how to use ARTs. He articulates the full range of these crucial issues, from the economic pressures patients face to the moral and social challenges they encounter as they make decisions which will profoundly shape the life of their offspring. In doing so, he reveals the broader social and biological implications of controlling genetics, ultimately arguing for closer regulation of procedures which affect the lives of generations to come and the future of our species as a whole.
Robert Klitzman, MD, is a Professor of Psychiatry in the College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Joseph Mailman School of Public Health, and the Director of the Masters of Bioethics Program at Columbia University. He co-founded & for 5 years co-directed the Center for Bioethics. He has conducted research and written about a variety of bioethical issues, and has authored or co-authored over 130 peer-reviewed scientific articles, as well as nine books, including Am I My Genes?, The Ethics Police?, Mortal Secrets, Being Positive, A Year-long Night, The Trembling Mountain, and In a House of Dreams and Glass: Becoming a Psychiatrist. His work has appeared in JAMA, Science, and other scientific publications, as well as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and The Nation. He has received several awards for his work, including fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Aaron Diamond Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Commonwealth Fund, and the Hastings Center, and is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He has been a member of the Research Ethics Advisory Panel of the US Department of Defense, and is a gubernatorial appointee to the NY State Stem Cell Commission.
Cheryl Pearl Sucher is an award-winning journalist, essayist, reviewer and fiction writer who lives between Cranbury, New Jersey and the Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. Ka Hua E Wha: The Southernmost Jewish Community in the World, her contribution to Jewish Lives in New Zealand was published in 2012 by Random House NZ and she has been a frequent contributing book reviewer and feature writer for The NZ Sunday Star-Times and The NZ Listener. Her first novel, The Rescue of Memory, was published by Scribner so long ago she has forgotten the exact date and an excerpt from her second novel in progress, Lost Cities, was published in 2013 in Printer's Row, the Chicago Tribune's literary supplement. From July 2013 to April 2016 she was one of four presenter/interviewers for New Zealand Hawkes Bay Television's half hour interview program CHATROOM.