AMA head calls 63-year-old giving birth “madness”


AMA President Dr Michael Gannon.

No amount of antioxidant supplements or kale smoothies can arrest the inevitability of ageing, he says

AMA president Dr Michael Gannon has said a woman’s decision to use IVF to conceive a child at the age of 63 was “selfish and wrong”.

The Tasmanian woman reportedly went overseas to be impregnated with a donor embryo, before returning to Australia and giving birth at 34 weeks in a Melbourne private hospital.

Perth-based obstetrician Dr Gannon, who has been president of the organisation for just over two months, had taken to Twitter to comment on the news describing the use of IVF so late in life as “madness”.

However critics accused him of making a moral judgement about the mother and downplaying the role of the 78-year-old father.

“This must not be narrowly viewed as a women’s rights issue. Nor is it about ageism,” he says in defence of his comments.

“As a community, we need to consider the rights of the child, the rights of society, the responsibilities of proper parenting, the health of the parents, the health risks to the child at birth and beyond, and the costs to the health system and the taxpayers that fund it.”

Since the baby was born premature and is being cared for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, much of its care is being subsidised by the taxpayer, he says.

“[This is] not simply an expression of choice, or a case of ‘user pays’. The health system picks up the bill.”

Dr Gannon points out there is a good reason why most IVF clinics in Australia do not offer treatment to women beyond the age of 53 years: from around the age of 30 years and onwards, problems associated with pregnancy and birth gradually increase, including miscarriage, chromosomal abnormalities, pre-eclampsia and the risk of stillbirth.

Also, by the time women reach their 50s and 60s, the effect of ageing on their blood vessels mean they are more susceptible to blood clots, health attacks and strokes.

“[This is] a potentially high price to pay to have a baby,” says Dr Gannon.

“None of this is avoidable, and no amount of antioxidant supplements or kale smoothies can arrest the inevitability of ageing.”

He said the birth of a child to a 63-year-old mother was not what the engineers of IVF had in mind when they developed the technology in the late 1970s.

“This amazing technology has brought so much joy to many across the world. But just because medical science can do something does not mean we have to do it, or should do it,” he said.

“Stories like this cannot become the norm. Let’s talk to Australian women and men about starting their families in their 20s, not normalise the dubious use of medical science and powerful hormones to wake the womb from its normal, physiological, post-menopausal sleep.”

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5 Comments

  1. Leah Rosevear
    08/08/2016

    I agree totally. To be a parent when relatively young and healthy means the child(children) have a better chance at a proper childhood – their physical, emotional and psychological needs being met (well hopefully). Parents at 63 and 78 may very well love their child but can’t keep up to the physical needs – playing and being active with their child. Also parent to parent socialisation with their child’s friends parents could be awkward and in the teenage years the child may be picked on at school because of having such ‘old’ parents. Not to mention the fact that when the child is 20 the parents will be 83 and 98 (father probably not alive anymore) and unable to have a normal relationship with their young adult child nor be there for support as grandparents. I have a good relationship with my parents who may be divorced but it has been great to have them around all these years and more to come and I am 57. They enjoy being grandparents to all their grandchildren and helpful and it is great for my children to have their grandparents in their lives. They are even great-grandparents now and my grandson loves his great-grandpop; loves to climb up onto him. Normal family life will not be possible with old parents and it will be cut short. Not fair for the child.

    • Jarrod McMaugh
      10/08/2016

      None of these are valid concerns, because you can apply them to many other parents and have the same outcome:

      Having a child while young and healthy: many young people are criticised for having children specifically because they are young. Many people have children when they wouldn’t be considered healthy.

      A proper childhood – their physical, emotional and psychological needs being met: Nothing about this couple would suggest that their child will not receive this kind of care. Social Services would tell us that there are quite a number of children born to younger parents who don’t receive this.

      Parents at 63 and 78 may very well love their child but can’t keep up to the physical needs: This would suggest that someone who has a physical or mental disability would also not be fit parents – something proven incorrect by many parents in Australia.

      Also parent to parent socialisation with their child’s friends parents could be awkward: I’m a prime example of a “regular” parent who does not socialise with the parents of my chlidren’s friends. And I am particularly awkward around people that I don’t know in a social situation.

      in the teenage years the child may be picked on at school because of having such ‘old’ parents: Welcome to being a teenager.

      Not to mention the fact that when the child is 20 the parents will be 83 and 98 (father probably not alive anymore) and unable to have a normal relationship with their young adult child nor be there for support as grandparents: There are many people who do not have access to their parents when they themselves become parents – either through death or estrangement. There are also plenty of people who don’t have their parents when they are a child. If life expectancy was a criterion for fit parenthood, then there are plenty of people with terminal conditions and shortened lifespans that you would preclude from the right to have children.

      Normal family life will not be possible with old parents and it will be cut short. Not fair for the child: What exactly is normal childhood? There are single parent families, families with large age gaps between parents; same sex families; adopted families; blended families; divorced parents with equal care, etc.

      At what point do we arbitrarily decide who can or cannot be a parent? who’s opinions about what is right or wrong holds more weight?

      Given that there are men who have had children at advanced age (far beyond the age of this mother or her husband), and this garners no media coverage, I can only see this particular issue as one of gender inequality – the loud expectations of society that women should “do the right thing” whatever that means, while men just do whatever and receive nothing more than quiet moralising, is absurd and should cause people to ask themselves what it is about this situation that they are so uncomfortable with…. that would be a more useful application of your time.

      • Leah Rosevear
        10/08/2016

        Not having parents around when you are over 20 is a valid concern. Grandparents are an important part of the family unit.

        I am well aware that many younger parents do not provide physical, emotional or psychological needs.

        Leah

        • Jarrod McMaugh
          12/08/2016

          It may well be a valid concern….. but is far from isolated to this one person…. therefore not valid as a reason why this person should not have had a child.

      • Mike
        19/08/2016

        The human body is not fit for pregnancy post- menopause. There is risk of harm to the developing foetus when the vasculature and circulating hormones are not fit for purpose. End of story – let’s not enter into ridiculous territory. I happily call myself a geriatricmaternophobe if you want to medicalise my rationalisation.

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