No Easy Choice

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Overview

In No Easy Choice, Ellen Painter Dollar tells her gut-wrenching story of living with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI)—a disabling genetic bone disorder that was passed down to her first child—and deciding whether to conceive a second child who would not have OI using assisted reproduction. Her story brings to light the ethical dilemmas surrounding advanced reproductive technologies. What do procedures such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) say about how we define human worth?...

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No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Parenthood, and Faith in an Age of Advanced Reproduction

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Overview

In No Easy Choice, Ellen Painter Dollar tells her gut-wrenching story of living with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI)—a disabling genetic bone disorder that was passed down to her first child—and deciding whether to conceive a second child who would not have OI using assisted reproduction. Her story brings to light the ethical dilemmas surrounding advanced reproductive technologies. What do procedures such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) say about how we define human worth? If we avoid such procedures, are we permitting the suffering of our children? How do we identify a "good life" in a consumer society that values appearance, success, health, and perfection?

Dollar considers multiple sides of the debate, refusing to accept the matter as simply black and white. Her book will help parents who want to understand and make good decisions about assisted reproduction, as well as those who support and counsel them, including pastors and medical professionals.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Part memoir, part theological treatise, this book offers a refreshingly candid and nuanced grappling with assisted reproduction that will be valuable to many Christians wishing to engage with the ethical questions raised by this new medical technology. Dollar, who suffers from a genetic disorder better known as “brittle bone disease,” wanted to spare her offspring the suffering she endured by testing her fertilized eggs for the mutation before they were implanted in her uterus. (There was a 50% chance her child would inherit the mutation.) Opposed to abortion, she and her husband reasoned that embryos in a petri dish are not the same as a fetus growing inside a womb. Nevertheless, she wondered if such technological advances might not hasten a world of designer babies selected to minimize the chances of pain, sickness, and disability. With an estimated four million babies conceived through in-vitro fertilization and rapid advances in genetic testing, such questions have never been more urgent, yet they are often left to couples to sort through on their own. This well-written, insightful account should serve as a resource to anyone who ponders the intersection of medicine, ethics, and parenthood. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"[No Easy Choice] is much more than memoir and more like an extended 'case study,' but not one written by a health care professional or clergy in training. Rather, it turns the tables, and is written by the 'case' herself, a parent of faith carrying a very risky gene who is trying to deal with the worlds of science, theology, and culture. I learned a lot and felt honored to be invited into the intimacy and capacity to deal with that wider intersection that happens at the beginning of life itself."
—William C. Gaventa, Associate Professor, The Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities , UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and author of Spirituality and Intellectual Disability

"This is a most thoroughgoing evaluation of questions that will absorb prospective parents, doctors, pastors, and those who counsel couples about in vitro fertilization and genetic testing. Anyone reading it will come away better informed on such vital choices challenging our culture."
—Virginia Stem Owens, author of Caring for Mother: A Daughter's Long Goodbye

"In No Easy Choice, Ellen Painter Dollar sets out to provide a guide for Christians considering reproductive technology. She succeeds, and then some. Weaving together an honest and touching personal narrative with ethical and theological insight, Dollar writes about a complex topic in simple terms. No Easy Choice should provoke thought, prayer, and discussion from any Christian who wants to engage the most pressing ethical concerns of the 21st century."
—Amy Julia Becker, author of A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny

"Ellen Painter Dollar is a consummate storyteller with a consuming story to tell. She is also a gifted journalist. In No Easy Choice, she has combined those skills to produce a gripping account of her family's engagement with one of the pressing questions of our time. Chock full of informed and candid insights, this one is a page turner."
—Phyllis Tickle, author of The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why

"No Easy Choice is a painfully wise book about the pain of having children whose life will be filled with pain. It is also a book of hope because its author never tries to say more than can be said about why some children are so born. This is a must read, not only for those considering prenatal genetic diagnosis and intervention, but for all concerned with the ethics of PGD. It's a terrific book."
—Stanley Hauerwas, Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke Divinity School, and author of God, Medicine, and the Problem of Suffering

"The book is both a challenge and a blessing for those who see the beauty that human disability brings to the world and the deep and troubling truths that it reveals about our societies. Moving, touching, personal, and filled with deep Christian spirituality, Dollar's book will move hearts and make a difference."

—John Swinton, Chair in Divinity and Religious Studies, University of Aberdeen

"This book is a welcome antidote to dry academic reflection on the ethics of PGD. The author walks us through her difficult decisions about using reproductive technologies in the face of having her children inherit a painful medical condition, cutting through the certitudes of those who do not have to face these choices themselves. Those pondering the use of reproductive technologies and those concerned with the ethics of these technologies can both benefit from reading this book."
—John H. Evans, Professor of Sociology, University of California, San Diego, and author of Contested Reproduction: Genetic Technologies, Religion and Public Debate

"It is definitely an easy choice to recommend No Easy Choice to Christians, all people of faith, and anyone else wrestling with parenting and living with disability in our technological age!"
—Amos Yong, Professor of Theology, Regent University, and author of The Bible, Disability, and the Church

"I am grateful for Dollar's skill and honesty as a writer, and moved by her story that is so clearly marked by truth and grace. I urge everyone who cares about Christian faithfulness in our time to read, ponder, and share this book."
—Andy Crouch, author of Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling

"Prepare yourself for a compelling, moving, and difficult journey. Elegantly written, this is a book of sheer genius born out of a story of pain, complexity, and faithfulness. This is book worth reading and rereading."
—Ian S. Markham, Dean and President, Virginia Theological Seminary

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780664236908
  • Publisher: Presbyterian Publishing
  • Publication date: 11/7/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Ellen Painter Dollar is a writer and mother of three living in West Hartford, Connecticut. She has written about faith, motherhood, and disability for a variety of organizations, publications, and blogs, including Christianity Today, the American Medical Association, the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation, the Hartford Courant, and the Episcopal Cafe. She currently blogs at Patheos.com. Visit her Web site at www.ellenpainterdollar.com.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 26, 2012

    In No Easy Choice, Ellen Painter Dollar has written a moving mem

    In No Easy Choice, Ellen Painter Dollar has written a moving memoir of her experiences wrestling with reproductive ethics mixed with a solid discussion of the topic. In her own life, it was a genetic disorder leading to her own disability, not infertility, that lead her and her husband to the doctor’s office. Their decision to use pre implantation genetic diagnosis brought up many ethical and spiritual questions. Following her compelling desire to spare her children of suffering while trying to discern her Christian ethical duty takes the reader through the difficult decision making process. It is a revealing peek into one woman’s emotional and physical journey.

    Her conclusions are not those of certainty of moral outcome, but rather that more discussion and resources should be available for couples struggling with the imponderables of assisted reproduction. This book serves as one of those resources now available. What more can we offer one another than our own experiences to learn from? By sharing our stories, we can show others how to find their own way in similar circumstances.

    As a former embryologist from a fertility clinic, I enjoyed her insights from a patient’s perspective. It can be hard to entirely appreciate the journey from a different vantage point. This well reasoned and thoughtful book would be a valuable tool for not only reproductive professionals, but especially clergy and other counselors who support couples making hard choices. While her personal medical situation related to pre implantation genetic diagnosis with IVF, it would be interesting and helpful for others thinking through how to emotionally and spiritually find peace with advanced medical reproduction.

    I would recommend this book to those in any stage of fertility treatment, as well as their support circles. When faced with advanced reproductive choices, many people find that they know very little about not only the science behind what is really possible, but even more so the deeper meaning attached to decisions that are made.

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  • Posted February 1, 2012

    Dollar asks you to examine your own position

    Let me state up front that I've never had IVF. I've not lived with a disability and I'm not a Christian. In fact, I lean more to atheism than agnosticism. Despite those clear differences between myself and the author, I found myself contemplating the ethical choices and moral positions I thought were firm.

    The book is very well written, with beautifully woven stories of anecdote and science, which remind us that although there seem to be limitless possibility for reproductive choices, there are real families at the heart of the matter. The ethical decisions seem to not have a proper wrong or right- just what fits for each family at that point in time.

    Clearly this is a book written by someone with a deep faith, but it's not written with a heavy hand in that regard. You clearly understand the author's relationship with God, the impact that has had upon her life, and how that relationship has guided the choices she and her husband made in regard to their family planning. You are not, however, left with the feeling that you were being preached to. Rather, you understand how it's impossible for someone of any faith to make IVF decisions lightly- especially given the weight of screening a disability.

    For a first release, I am greatly impressed and can't wait for the next work to come from Mrs. Dollar.

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