ISBN-10:
0879698098
ISBN-13:
9780879698096
Pub. Date:
05/23/2006
Publisher:
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
Pandora's Baby: How the First Test Tube Babies Sparked the Reproductive Revolution / Edition 1

Pandora's Baby: How the First Test Tube Babies Sparked the Reproductive Revolution / Edition 1

by Robin Marantz Henig

Paperback

Current price is , Original price is $16.95. You

Temporarily Out of Stock Online

Please check back later for updated availability.

MARKETPLACE
21 New & Used Starting at $1.99

Overview

On a September Morning in 1973, A hospital administrator in New York City learned of a rogue experiment in progress at his institution and ordered the destruction of a test tube containing a frothy mixture of human eggs and sperm. Had the experiment been allowed to continue, it might have resulted in the first human fetus created through in vitro fertilization. In Pandora's Baby, the award-winning journalist Robin Marantz Henig tells the story of that confrontation, which ushered in a new era in reproductive technology. She takes us back to the early days of IVF, when the procedure was viewed as crackpot science and its pioneers as outsiders in the medical world. Henig lays out the ethical and political battlefield of the 1970s -- a battlefield that is recreated with each new technology -- and traces the sea change that has occurred in the public perception of "test tube babies."

It is a human story, of men and women grappling with the moral implications of a scientific discovery: researchers, couples yearning for babies, hospital administrators, and bioethicists. Through these people Henig brings to life the argument made most forcefully against IVF in the early days: that it was the first step down the slippery slope toward genetic engineering, designer babies, and human clones. Even though this argument is worrisome and antiprogressive, Henig says, many of its most scary prophecies seem to be coming true. Pandora's Baby is a compelling story from the not-so-distant past, which brilliantly presents the scientific and ethical dilemmas we confront ever more starkly as germ-line engineering and human cloning become possible.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780879698096
Publisher: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
Publication date: 05/23/2006
Series: Science & Society Series
Edition description: ANN
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 458,503
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Robin Marantz Henig is the author of seven books. The Monk in the Garden: The Lost and Found Genius of Gregor Mendel was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Read an Excerpt

Prologue
Monster in a Test Tube

On a cool fall morning in 1973, Doris and John Del-Zio arrived with her
luggage at New York Hospital. It was a familiar routine for the Florida couple;
Doris had been a patient there before. On three earlier occasions her
Manhattan infertility specialist, William Sweeney, had tried surgically to
remove obstructions in Doris's blocked fallopian tubes. The first surgery
worked and Doris became pregnant, but three months along she had a
miscarriage. The second and third surgeries had no effect at all. Neither did
attempts at artificial insemination using her husband's sperm, not after the
first insemination, nor the second, nor the third. Month after month after
disappointing month, Doris Del-Zio, then approaching thirty, got her
menstrual period, and each one was a stinging rebuke. Every period taunted
her—no baby, no baby, no baby—forcing her to acknowledge that she still
wasn't pregnant and probably never would be.
Maybe she and John should have just left well enough alone.
Maybe God, or fate, or whatever one calls the keeper of one's destiny, meant
for Doris to be content with her ten-year-old daughter, Tammy, the child of
her first marriage, and with her two college-age stepdaughters, Denise and
Debbie, who lived with John's ex-wife. Maybe it was enough to have a
beautiful home in Fort Lauderdale and an adoring husband, a professional
man—a dentist—who had adopted Tammy and loved her as though she were
his own. But Doris wanted to have John's baby, and she was ready to do
almost anything to make that happen.
'Isn't there somethingelse you can do?' Doris asked Sweeney
after her third failed surgery. She was a pretty woman with brunette hair
swept into a lacquered flip, and her dark eyes were sad. 'They can put a man
on the moon; isn't there some way scientists can figure out how to help me
have a child?'
Well, yes, Sweeney conceded, a little reluctantly because of
Doris's long history of infertility surgery; there was one more thing they could
try. It had never been done in humans before, only in lab mice and rabbits.
But if Doris was willing, he could try a new method, in vitro fertilization, or
IVF, which would bypass her clogged tubes altogether. The few journalists
who had written about the procedure were calling it the creation of test tube
babies.
If the Del-Zios consented—and Doris took barely ten minutes to
decide that this was her last, best hope—Sweeney said he would surgically
remove a few of Doris's eggs and, with a collaborator who had done such
things before, fertilize them with John's sperm in a glass test tube (in vitro is
Latin for 'in glass'). If one of the sperm fertilized one of the eggs, the resulting
zygote—the scientific term for a fertilized egg—would be placed in an
incubator at body temperature for three or four days and allowed to grow. The
single cell would become two, the two would become four, the four eight, the
eight sixteen, and the sixteen thirty-two. It would take about three days for
the zygote to grow into the thirty-two-cell ball known as a morula and another
day or so to grow into a blastocyst, a fluid-filled sphere made up of a few
hundred cells. Even though it woul still be smaller across than the width of
an eyelash, the blastocyst would now be ready to implant itself in the uterine
wall. According to the plan, then, Sweeney would have Doris return to the
operating room four days after her eggs had been harvested, to introduce the
minuscule blastocyst into her uterus at about the same time nature would
have done so had it been given the chance. Her body, he hoped, could take it
from there.
The logistics of the undertaking were tricky, made even trickier by
geography. Doris's eggs would be removed at New York Hospital, an affiliate
of Cornell Medical School on East 68th Street on Manhattan's Upper East
Side. But Sweeney believed that the only man in New York with the
experience, the interest, and the nerve to try to fertilize those eggs in vitro
was a physician named Landrum B. Shettles, who worked at Columbia
Presbyterian Medical Center on West 168th Street and Broadway, one
hundred blocks north and on the opposite side of the city, in Washington
Heights. That was where the fertilization would have to take place.
By the time Doris checked into New York Hospital to attempt IVF,
she had been taking fertility drugs for more than six months to pump up the
activity of her ovaries. Sweeney met with her and John to discuss the
procedure and to have them read and sign all the consent forms. In addition
to the usual forms, Sweeney handed the couple a one-page document that
seemed almost improvised, so casual was its tone, so lacking in standard
legalese: 'Of our own free will and volition and with full knowledge of in vitro
fertilization, . . . [we] hereby authorize Dr. William J. Sweeney to perform a
laparotomy with embryo transplant and any other operation upon Mrs. Doris
Del-Zio, and to employ any assistance as he may desire to assist him. We
understand that there is no guarantee or assurance that a pregnancy could
result. We understand that there is the possibility of complications of
pregnancy and of childbirth and delivery, or the birth of an abnormal infant or
infants, or undesirable tendencies or other adverse consequences.'
The IVF consent form, the first of its kind used in New York—
indeed, possibly the first of its kind used anywhere in the world— was dated
September 11, 1973. It was typed on a manual typewriter with a smudgy
black ribbon, signed by Doris in back-sloping handwriting with a black fine-
point pen and by John in bigger, bolder script in blue.
On September 12, a Wednesday, Sweeney came in to the eighth-
floor operating room where he had encountered Doris so many times before,
made a new incision in her abdomen, and used a syringe to draw out from
her ovaries what is known as follicular fluid. In a woman who has been taking
fertility drugs, these ovarian secretions usually contain at least a few eggs.
Sweeney collected about one cubic centimeter of fluid, which he
divided between two test tubes, adding some tissue scraped from the
fallopian tubes for nourishment. Then he phoned Landrum Shettles at
Presbyterian Hospital to tell him the eggs were on their way.
It was John Del-Zio's job to get them there. Nestling his wife's
eggs inside his jacket pocket, safe in two corked test tubes swaddled in
bubble wrap, he took the elevator down York Avenue exit. Then Del-
Zio, a good-natured man with a reedy voice, thinning black hair, and the looks
of Phil Silvers on the Sergeant Bilko television show, began the journey that
he and his wife hoped would lead to the world's first test tube baby.
The Del-Zios may have thought they were just trying to make a
baby, but in truth they were also making history. And, finding themselves in
the swirl of an epoch-defining vortex, they were about to come face to face
with their own true selves: part courage, part vanity; part selflessness, part
greed.
But John Del-Zio did not know that yet. All he knew was that he
had to get over to the West Side and up to Washington Heights. So he stood
in the morning chill, peered at the traffic going north on York Avenue, and
hailed a cab.

The enterprise the Del-Zios were embarked upon, in vitro fertilization, carried
a slightly sinister overtone in September 1973, some- what like the back-
alley connotations of abortion before the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade
decision, just eight months earlier. Within a few short years, spurred mostly
by scientists' ability to bring into the world test tube babies who were
perfectly beautiful, normal-looking in every way, society's view would begin to
change. The change was subtle, a cultural and intellectual shift so gradual as
to be almost imperceptible to those living through it. But it added up to
something radical indeed. A graphic demonstration of this evolution can be
seen in the story of the Del-Zios, their physicians, William Sweeney and
Landrum Shettles, and Raymond Vande Wiele, the chairman of Shettles's
department, attitude toward IVF underwent a dramatic reversal over
the course of a single decade. This book is about that transformation, the
people who struggled through it, and the regulatory mechanisms that society
put in place during that tumultuous time—mechanisms that are still in place
today to guide us through our next adventures in reproductive technology.
It's an American story, even though early IVF is often associated
with England, where the world's first test tube baby—Louise Brown, billed
as 'the Baby of the Century,' her doctors hailed as heroes— was born in
1978. But the American IVF attempt involving the Del- Zios, Shettles, and
Vande Wiele, which began five years earlier, reveals, perhaps better than the
more familiar British story, what can happen when society faces a new and
frightening technology: how it is greeted first with resistance and
expectations of the worst, then with grudging permission, then with
acceptance, and finally with incorporation so seamlessly into the culture that
no one even notices it anymore. Because the two stories, the American and
the British, took place concurrently, both are told here. And alongside the
stories of the research itself are some larger, more perennial issues: the
struggle between the drive to know and the drive to not know; the growth of
the field of bioethics; the mechanisms by which new technologies are
introduced and regulated; and the factors that motivate scientists, including
altruism, personal bravura, economics, and lust for power.
It seems hard to believe today, when the procedure is so routine
that it is usually covered by medic insurance, that IVF in 1973 was thought
by some to threaten the very fabric of civilization. Marriage, fidelity, the
essence of family; our sense of who we are and where we're headed; what it
means to be human, connected, normal, acceptable; ideas about love, sex,
and nurturance; the willingness to yield to the inscrutable, marvelous mystery
of it all. If in vitro fertilization was allowed, some said, all the stabilizing
threads would unravel.
The threads were unraveling already, of course, which is probably
why IVF seemed so threatening, yet another tug at the ever-loosening weave.
Feminism was a major source of the fraying. In the early seventies women
were rewriting their social roles, moving out of housewifery, delaying
childbearing or choosing to be childless altogether, demanding access to
traditionally male domains. With the feminist movement turning motherhood
into an option instead of an obligation, any proposed change in the
relationship between a woman and her reproductive capability was
particularly fraught. The birth control pill had already separated sex from
procreation; the Roe v. Wade decision had already separated pregnancy from
birth; no-fault divorce laws had already separated marriage vows from forever.
With all these coincident changes, what would the new reproductive
technology do to our perception of children as the fruit of a loving, lifelong
union?
'Marriage and the family must be abolished as institutions,' wrote
Ti-Grace Atkinson, the author of Amazon Odyssey and one of the most
radical feminists of the day. 'And 'love' as an ideology to justify them must
also go.'
more than the institutions that supported it, the act of
procreation itself was reassessed and found to be politically suspect. This
was the era of Zero Population Growth (ZPG), when couples who had more
than two children were viewed askance, thought to be wantonly gobbling up
the planet's precious gifts. To true believers, nothing less than the fate of the
earth was at stake, its environment imperiled by too many people and too
much technology.
Just as ZPG was making people think twice about having babies,
a growing environmental movement was making them think twice about
scientific advancement for its own sake. The notion that progress almost
always comes at a cost underlay one of the movement's earliest
achievements, the Environmental Impact Assessment, introduced in the
National Environmental Protection Act of 1970. Good social policy, the
Environmental Impact Assessment made clear, denied neither the progress
nor the cost but sought to balance the two in a morally responsible way.
Comfortable conventions were suddenly open to reevaluation, too.
The antiwar movement, which helped lead to America's humiliating
withdrawal from Vietnam in 1973, provided a new matrix for social cynicism
and the belief that the government sometimes makes grave mistakes. The
government's fallibility was reinforced when the Watergate scandal erupted
on national television. The daily congressional hearings turned the summer of
1973 into an object lesson in how long, and how destructive, can be the
shadow cast by a single too-powerful man.
In that same year the vice president resigned in ignominy over
charges of graft and evasion; a group of enraged Native Americans laid
siege for three months to a tiny South Dakota town; and an Arab oil embargo
quadrupled gas prices and made Americans question their dependence on
foreign oil. Into this bubbling mess of social change came scientists who
wanted to create life in the laboratory. No wonder it looked like such a
dangerous idea.

No one but the gods should tamper with the natural order of things. That, at
least, is the moral of the parables that have been handed down for millennia,
designed to quell humankind's unpredictable, irrepressible, sometimes
foolhardy impulses to twist nature according to its own whims. The folly of
such actions has been the point of myths and folk tales dating back to the
ancient Greeks, who told the story of Prometheus to show that any attempt
by a mere mortal to create life—or, more blasphemous still, to conjure a
thinking, feeling, independent organism—can lead only to ruin.
Prometheus was a Titan, not a god, but the gods adored him.
During the time when all the earth's creatures were being made, Zeus gave
Prometheus a special task: to create Man. Prometheus took great pride in
Man—some might say too much pride, the kind the Greeks called hubris. He
wanted to endow his creation with a special gift, something unique to Man,
something more valuable than the gifts of flight, or strength, or speed, or
camouflage, which had already been bestowed upon earth's other creatures.
Prometheus decided to give Man a tool that the gods alone possessed,
which would enable him to fashion other tools, to provide himself with
clothing, shelter, and food. He decided to give Man the gift of fire.
Prometheus stole the fire from Mount Olympus in the dead of
night and carried it to earth, nestled carefully in the crook of his arm. When
Zeus saw the flickering light of the flames, he knew what Prometheus had
done. He concocted a brutal punishment: he had Prometheus lashed to a
rock at the top of the Caucasus Mountains, and directed a vulture to tear
ceaselessly at his liver. The Titan's agony never ended. The vulture was
forever hungry, and every night Prometheus's liver regenerated, ready to
become the next morning's meal.
The mythic hero's suffering inspired much poetry, such as Lord
Byron's 'Prometheus' of 1816. In that year Byron made an excursion to the
French Alps with Percy Bysshe Shelley and Shelley's teenage mistress.
Shelley at the time was a married man, but a few months later he became a
widower when his jilted wife drowned herself in the Serpentine River. He then
married his young lover, Mary Godwin, who became known as Mary Shelley.
During that trip to the Alps the weather was bad, and Byron
proposed that he, Shelley, and Mary pass the time writing ghost stories.
Mary, much less accomplished than the two men, was at first struck nearly
dumb by the idea. But the story she put together, about a scientist she
called 'the modern Prometheus,' eventually became the novel Frankenstein,
a book whose impact far outlasted that of the ghost stories concocted by
Byron and Shelley.
Byron's ode addressed Prometheus directly, extolling his bravery
in the face of injustice.

Thy godlike crime was to be kind;
To render with thy prece sum of human wretchedness,
And strengthen man with his own mind.

Prometheus's transgression was to provide such a powerful tool,
one that would 'strengthen man with his own mind.' Fire was, like
knowledge, a double-edged gift, with the capacity for both creation and
destruction. So it is with our most potent scientific discoveries. The more
wonderful the accomplishments that are made possible by science, the more
potentially terrible they are as well.
When the gods looked at Prometheus and Man, they saw what
they themselves had wrought: the fierce attachment that inevitably grows
between creator and creation. What if Man, with toolmaking and other
capabilities of fire at his disposal, developed a stronger allegiance to
Prometheus than to the gods? Once the ability to enhance life was bestowed
on mere mortals, how could anyone maintain order or decency or restraint?

The Promethean trick of creating life is the essence of in vitro fertilization. But
it entwines two extremes of life: on the one hand, life at its most fragile and
natural, involving acts of love and touch and sex and generation, and, on the
other hand, life at its most contrived, with surgical interventions, microscopic
examinations, and lab cultures, turning the creation of a baby into a matter of
technology rather than nature. In the early days of IVF, before it became a
focus of widespread public attention, the debate was mostly about science:
whether human sex cells and embryos could be grown successfully in a petri
dish; whether fertilizing them there would lead to gross abnormalities;
whether more animal research should be done before starting work on
humans. But the debate soon took on a more philosophical tone. Some
people argued that a human embryo, even a single- celled zygote, deserved
the same respect due a human being— not because the zygote was a
person, really, but because it was a potential person, containing all the DNA
necessary to make a new and unique individual. 'A blastocyst . . . is not
humanly nothing,' wrote biologist Leon Kass, one of the loudest opponents of
IVF in the seventies —and today a forceful critic of cloning. 'It possesses a
power to become what everyone will agree is a human being.'
The very notion of artificial fertilization went against the teachings
of many religious groups, including the Catholic Church. 'Fecundation must
be carried out according to nature and through reciprocal and responsible
love between a man and a woman,' said the Reverend Pierfranco Pastore, a
spokesman for the Vatican, shortly after Louise Brown was born in 1978.
Added the Reverend Anthony Bevilacqua of the Diocese of Brooklyn: 'We
would not like to see the point where science dehumanizes the act of
marriage.'
If some of these comments sound like a rehearsal for today's
debates about human cloning, that is because there are some very real
parallels. Cloning today evokes many of the same responses that IVF did
thirty years ago. In fact, early opponents of IVF deliberately linked the two by
predicting that human cloning was what lay at the bottom of the long and
treacherous 'slippery slope' down which we would inevitably tumble if IVF
was allowed.
Throughout recent history, scientific and cultural chang have
been subjected to the slippery slope argument. People talked about the
slippery slope when the first human artificial insemination was publicized in
1909, conjuring images of selective breeding and a race of illegitimate souls.
They talked about the slippery slope after the .rst heart transplant in 1967,
after the first animal-to-human transplant in 1984 and, in the summer of 2001,
after the first attempt to create human embryos explicitly for research. Early
cases of assisted suicide stimulated talk of a slippery slope leading to
wholesale killing of the aged or in.rm; early attempts at amniocentesis, of a
slippery slope toward the elimination of fetuses that were trivially imperfect —
or simply the 'wrong' sex.
There is power in these arguments, because if we hadn't allowed
those first steps—the refinement of intrauterine diagnosis, the definition of
brain death, the limbo created by the heart-lung machine—the more
disturbing applications could not have come to pass.
The same can be said of IVF. Scientists first had to learn how to
fertilize human eggs in the lab and how to transfer them back into the womb
before they could even begin to think about the scenarios that now cause so
much concern: not only cloning but also preimplantation genetic diagnosis,
genetic engineering of sex cells, the creation of human/animal chimeras, the
culturing of human embryos as sources of replacement parts. None of these
interventions could be accomplished without first perfecting the techniques of
artificial fertilization and embryo transfer.
But for all that people railed against s might
lead, the protests had an unintended and paradoxical effect: they led to less
control over IVF rather than more. Early on, opponents of the procedure
thought that the best way to stop troublesome science was to keep the
government from financing it, and they fought against using taxpayers' money
for research involving fetuses or embryos— which, by extension, included
IVF. A succession of bioethics commissions reviewed these bans on
government financing, and one by one the commissions recommended that
the bans be lifted. But politicians, afraid of alienating the vocal antiabortion
lobby, which took on IVF as its cause, generally did not want to underwrite
such controversial research. So they tended to ignore each report and form a
new commission in the hopes that it would reach a different conclusion. This
became the pattern for the role of bioethicists in the regulatory minuet: sit on
a commission, hold meetings, attend public hearings, write a report that says
the research is ethically acceptable, have the report ignored, watch the next
president or Congress convene a new commission. Repeat.
Even after the ban on fetal research was finally lifted, and then the
ban on embryo research, the government still refused to sponsor IVF
research. But the lack of federal support didn't stop scientists from working
on IVF—it just forced them to do so beneath the radar. They were thus
beyond the reach of the main mechanism for oversight, which was (and still
is) the federal research grant and the standards it imposes on recipients. No
government grants for in vitro fertilization meant that no one was forced to
adhere to any standards. But entrepreneurial scientists were doing IVF
anyway, bolstered by private money from infertile couples desperate for
babies of their own. Many of these scientists were honorable men and
women with solid reputations and the loftiest of goals. But some were
motivated by the factors that drive so many innovators, scientists included:
ego, curiosity, ambition, even greed. They were free agents who essentially
did whatever they wanted and whatever the market would bear. Their privately
funded efforts turned some aspects of IVF into a cowboy science driven by
supply and demand.

Cloning is in many respects today's cowboy science; cloners are the
daredevils and rogues, making claims on television and at congressional
hearings that are rarely backed up with genetic proof or an actual baby.
Alarmed, many politicians in the United States and elsewhere have tried hard
to put cloning in its place—not by refusing to fund it, as they did with IVF, but
through legislation to outlaw it altogether —whether for research or for
creating a baby. They want to keep human cloning from going the way of IVF,
which developed at its own pace and became part of the ordinary landscape
simply because it was easier to ignore a controversial new technology than
to regulate it.
Cloning resembles IVF not only in the legislature but in the
laboratory as well. For both IVF and cloning, the first step is to create a
human zygote in culture. But though similar in terms of laboratory technique
and in terms of the intention to allow infertile couples to have biological
children, cloning and have some crucial differences —and we misread
the lessons of IVF for today's cloning debates if we fail to see those
differences.
The goal of in vitro fertilization is to mimic sexual reproduction and
produce a genetically unique human being, a baby with one father and one
mother. Only the locus of conception changes, after which events proceed
much the way they do in a normal pregnancy. Cloning, however, disregards
sexual reproduction; it mimics not the process but the end result, the human
being himself. What is produced is not a new person with a unique
combination of mother's and father's DNA but the identical twin, a genetic
replica in every way, of a person who already exists.
Perhaps the biggest difference between IVF and cloning is the
focus of our anxieties about them. In the 1970s the greatest fear about in vitro
fertilization was that it might fail, leading to sorrow, disappointment, and
possibly the birth of grotesquely abnormal babies. Today the greatest fear
about cloning is that it might succeed.
In terms of the evolution of the species, cloning could have serious
unintended consequences—far more consequences than 'basic' IVF has
had. As early as the 1940s, the British author C. S. Lewis warned that the
net result of reproductive technology might well be not advancement but,
perversely, a bizarre kind of petrification, the freezing of the world at the
particular moment in time when the new technology was introduced. It would
be like walking into a twenty-first-century home and finding an avocado-
colored refrigerator and brown shag carpeting. That might have been the < fashion when the owners made their first decorating decisions—but
now, thirty years later, it all looks shabby and out-of-date. Something
analogous could happen to the human species, said Lewis. Babies designed
according to one era's fashion could become, like pine-paneled rumpus
rooms, something we regret when the fashions change. And an outdated
genome can't be ripped out like an old carpet.
'If any one age really attains, by eugenics and scientific
education, the power to make its descendants what it pleases,' wrote Lewis
in the 1943 essay 'The Abolition of Man,' 'all men who live after it are
patients of that power. They are weaker, not stronger; for though we may
have put wonderful machines in their hands we have preordained how they
are to use them.'
Lewis's warning carries an important reminder: that opening some
doors and not others automatically prevents us from venturing into certain
rooms. But his emphasis is slightly askew. He makes it sound as though
once we set off along a particular path of discovery, we continue to make
decisions that cannot be undone. More often, however, the doors we close
and open along the way are like swinging saloon doors; the process does not
have to happen in only one direction. Our choices have ramifications, to be
sure, but the ramifications are not necessarily linear—nor are they
necessarily permanent. If we seem to have enshrined the wrong fashion, we
would probably have time to find ways to undo our mistake. The challenge is
to achieve a balance between making reasonable choices and being so
frightened of the wrong choices that we make no ch all.

The Prometheus story has a sequel. It involves the first woman, the ancient
Greek equivalent of Eve, whom the gods sent to earth in direct retribution for
Prometheus's misdeed. Her name was Pandora, meaning 'all gifted.' The
gods on Mount Olympus fashioned her with all the most alluring traits they
could think of. Aphrodite gave her beauty; Hermes, persuasion; Apollo, his
magnificent music.
When Pandora arrived on earth, she was carrying a beautiful and
mysterious box. The box (some myths describe it as a jar) was a gift from
the gods, who handed it to her and told her never to open it. But among
Pandora's many gifts were some distinctly human qualities —curiosity,
audacity, impetuousness, cheek—at play in a fa- tally flawed combination.
She defied the gods' injunction and opened the box. In doing so, she
unleashed all the terrors that had until then been unknown to Man, living as
he did in a blissful, innocent paradise, and that would forever after cause him
anguish and pain. These grievous sorrows, as one account of the Pandora
myth put it, rushed from the box 'in a black stinking cloud like pestilent
insects—sickness and suffering, hatred and jealousy and greed, and all the
other cruel things that freeze the heart and bring on old age.' The release of
these miseries represented an end to the golden age, a coda to mankind's
idyllic childhood.
When scientists started talking, in the early 1970s, about creating
a kind of Pandora's baby, a lab-fertilized egg brought into being by human
technology instead of by the gods, some observers thought again about the
lessons the Greeks had tried to teach. It seemed to boil down to a struggle
between two competing impulses: the creative drive to understand nature
versus the conservative drive to impose limits and maintain the status quo.
This is the way frontier science has always been done, through the raucous
to-ing and fro-ing of contradictory desires. The conflict between striving to
know and wanting not to know has been with us since Eve tasted the apple,
since Prometheus brought fire to mankind.
Would Pandora's baby lead to something so close to what
happened in the myth, people wondered, that the only responsible thing
would be to make sure it was never born? Would successful in vitro
fertilization demand a reassessment of qualities so central to our humanity —
our sense of doom and destiny, our understanding of who we are and where
we are headed, our definitions of parents, children, love, sex, generation—
that its very existence would threaten our collective soul? These questions
may seem overdramatic today, unless you replace 'in vitro fertilization'
with 'human cloning.' But in the years before the first test tube baby, these
questions were asked by reasonable men and women who sincerely believed
that IVF might unleash a scourge of woeful possibilities that, as with
Pandora's opening of her dreadful box, we would be better off having never
seen.

Copyright © 2004 by Robin Marantz Henig. Reprinted by permission of
Houghton Mifflin Company.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Monster in a Test Tube1
Part 1Ex Ovo Omnia
1.Room Temperature19
2.The Dance of Love26
3.Laughingstock56
4.Out of Control64
5.Fits and Starts78
6.Laboratory Ghouls87
Part 2The Modern Prometheus
7.Toward Happily Ever After95
8.Baby Dreams104
9.Science on Hold118
10.The First One133
11.A Baby Clone142
12.Hang On150
Part 3Test Tube Death Trial
13.Fooling Mother Nature155
14.Pandora's Baby170
15.Normality173
16.Prometheus Unbound177
17.Verdict193
Part 4Not Meant to Be Known
18.Right to Life201
19.Opening Pandora's Box217
20.Tables Turned229
21.From Monstrous to Mundane233
22.Pandora's Clone245
23.Mixed Blessings261
Notes269
Selected Readings303
Acknowledgments308
Index310

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews