No Easy Choiceby Ellen Painter Dollar
Pub. Date: 11/07/2011
Publisher: Presbyterian Publishing
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/i>… See more details below
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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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.
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.