Last month, Daljinder Kaur, a woman in her 70s, gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Kaur underwent two years of IVF treatments and, according to the Washington Post, she did so against the initial objections of doctors and her 79-year-old husband, Mohinder Singh Gill. After undergoing IVF at the National Fertility and Test Tube Baby Centre in Haryana, India, Kaur eventually conceived. In April, she gave birth to a boy named Arman.
Kaur told the Agence France-Presse that they were overjoyed to welcome the child, especially after decades of taunting over infertility. “I feel blessed to be able to hold my own baby. I had lost hope of becoming a mother ever,” Kaur told AFP. “I used to feel empty. There was so much loneliness.”
Though Kaur is unsure of her exact birth date (she says she is 70, the hospital lists 72) she is one of the oldest women to give birth, if not the oldest. But ethicists and fertility experts say that Kaur’s IVF treatments raise serious questions about ethics and responsible practices.
“In my opinion it is unfair to do such a procedure on a woman who is over 60,” Sunil Jindal, a fertility expert, told AFP. “The sheer fact that a woman in her 70s has to carry the weight of a child in her womb for nine months is stressful.” Jindal also raised questions about whether or not the couple is physically capable of caring for a child; a concern which is one of the more common objections to IVF treatment for older women.
Jindal’s concerns were reiterated by a former president of the Indian Society for Assisted Reproduction. “This sends the wrong message to society, that anyone can give birth to a child at any age,” the former president said. But Kaur’s doctors insist that she underwent numerous tests demonstrating her physical fitness before they agreed to perform IVF treatments. They argue that Kaur’s pregnancy was similar to that of a middle-age woman, with the same effects and risks. And Kaur told a local news organization that she was breastfeeding the baby.
Anurag Bishnoi, embryologist and owner of the clinic where Kaur received IVF, said he was comfortable with the couples’ respective ages. “People say, what will happen to the child once we die. But I have full faith in God. God is omnipotent and omnipresent, he will take care of everything.” He also argued that reproduction is a fundamental right.
While Bishnoi’s defense of his practice might hyperbolic, there are many medical ethicists who agree with him. In 2015, a Johns Hopkins University bioethicist said that enforcing reproductive age limits on women contradicted “reproductive liberties,” drawing a comparison with men who father children later in life.
Whether or not Kaur’s late-life birth was ethical or not, she and her husband were pleased to welcome their son. “My life feels complete now,” she told the AFP.
Screenshot via AFP/Yahoo.