Monday, August 09, 2010

BPA now implicated in male fertility

BPA is the chemical in many plastics that was previously implicated in infant health concerns, wasn't it? I remember there was some debate about the composition of some plastic baby bottles and possible side effects, and if I remember correctly it was BPA that was the concern.

Well now comes news of a study led by Professor John Meeker from the University of Michigan in conjunction with the Harvard School of Public Health. 190 men were recruited to the study through a fertility clinic and 90 per cent tested positive for BPA in their urine. And men with the highest levels of Bisphenol A (BPA) in their urine had a sperm count 23 per cent lower on average than those with the lowest BPA levels.

The study is kind of small and hasn't been repeated yet so maybe it is too soon to call this conclusive. Or maybe if you are a man having fertility issues this is another thing to add to a rather long list of cautions - avoid food and beverage packaged in hard plastic containers since they usually use BPA to achieve the hardening of the plastic.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Unforseen circumstances for some IVF children

This is another corner case for children born from IVF. It involves social security benefits paid to surviving children when a parent has died. In the old days, a child could not be conceived after their father had died, but these days it is happening more and more. A woman who has undergone IVF and had embryos frozen can have a child fathered by her already deceased husband. That's an unexpected issue to consider.

Typically, the wife is eligible for survivor benefits. But is the new child, born perhaps years after the husband died, also eligible? There are eleven states that explicitly allow recognition of a parent-child relationship that begins with posthumous conception, but in other states for the relationship to exist a parent must be alive at the time of conception.

There is a case being fought in the courts at the moment in which a woman gave birth two years after her husband died. She used frozen sperm from her now deceased husband to become pregnant. She initially received some benefits for her child but now the states social security administration has demanded she pay it back and she is challenging it. The case will be heard by the Utah supreme court.

If you consider the precise purpose of insurance you must conclude that no benefit is warranted. Insurance benefits, including the survivor benefits paid by social security, are for the purpose of mitigating unexpected and catastrophic events, such as the death of a parent after children are born. A child conceived after the father has already died is not such a case. However, the purpose of insurance has become so perverted in the U.S. that it is now considered a way to make the unaffordable affordable, as if the money magically comes from somewhere else. It is common thinking that health "insurance" should pay for checkups, common colds, and family planning, all things that are normal expected events.

The outcome of the Utah court case may be of some interest, depending on whether the purpose of insurance is observed, or if it is just another free-for-all give away, turning "insurance" into nothing more than a government subsidy. Of greater interest is to keep track of how different states apply the test of a parent-child relationship and planning for where you can game the system the most.