Listen: Biology, Ethics and a Pair of Millionaires
"Episode I'm joined by Jane Lee who has pretty Mario and Elsa Riaz they to property developers from Los Angeles and they really wanted to have a child together but there were a couple yeah that's right also was forty and it was fifty seven and they couldn't do it on their own so in one thousand nine hundred one they decided to come all the way to Australia to try this brand new thing called him vitro fertilization and I've e F I mean today creating a baby using ivf is totally commonplace and begin stree- over familiar but this was the early Eighties win the technology and the science was so new that this just was we this idea that you could create a human embryo outside of swim and suspend its development in time to it was blowing people's minds the moment of conception an event that has taken place in natural environment the womb since the dawn of human existence now it comes in gloss and with it a host of problems moral ethical in legal so Australia was leading the way in fact with the science of RV if that when the couple come here the techniques still very much being susta this is experimental stuff yeah and one of the people who knows just how difficult those early days were is Gab Kovacs he's a professor of obstetric gynecology at Monash University but back then he was the Clinical Director of the IVF program at the Queen Victoria Hospital in Melbourne was very difficult from Queen Victoria Hospital Sova General Hospital and everyone thought that obviously is just a phase wasn't going to work it wasn't an last and that we wasting everybody's time doc doing and collections after to me natural song goes on spontaneous ovulation so it's not unusual to have to collect exit two am four am six I am so we had a lot of opposition and all I v F treatment started out using the so-called natural cycle method which meant doctors had to wait for the perfect moment in a woman's natural ovulation cycle to retrieve that one egg she created every month if they collected it at the right time it could go on to be fertilized to make an embryo if they timed it too late they'd miss the egg and have to wait another month too early and the egg wasn't mature enough to be fertilized outside the chances here actually getting a baby out of IV of treatment would have been extremely low when the races rocked up in Australia yeah but a talented trio at Queen Victoria Hospital was changing all of that and they were about to put Australia in the the F. history books so I wanted to do the IV if in a totally different way to the way they were doing it because I wanted to sort of utilize methods that upton animals scientist Alan Trounson originally trained as a bit and he was recruited to the hospital by IVF pioneer car would call would he add made work with John Leyton to develop a totally different system which was using fertility drugs to stimulate the women's we could get more eggs and hints more embryos what happened is is that actually work that was a system that actually work it was a huge leap forward they found a way to create multiple viable embryos at a time. and freeze them and every extra embryo meant another chance of creating a baby for a couple who couldn't otherwise have one is every stage in artificial auctioning still precarious so in those early days a significant proportion of those embryos just were lost in the phrasing prices will only about the tain percent survive treatments ended with a live baby back then today that figure stands at about thirty percent but even so this scientific breakthrough was life changing for wannabe parents Allen trouncing an and I found the could cope with disappoint but absolutely you know very well let's actually because they understood this was a very early in in terms of the research so the chances of getting outcomes would be very low if anything happened when somebody got pregnant and is is it was astonishing and so when we go to Ronald pregnancies from the methods of using John and in the whole world Sunday stood up and so what what the heck did you uh-huh okay so let's meet the American couple at the heart of the story Jain they land in Australia had Elsa Riaz respond VF Treatment Will Gab. Kovacs was one of the doctors at the Queen Victoria Hospital remember I said they were millionaires. That's important to this story but back then Gab Kovacs had no idea just way she was dressed in my she spoke Mississippi very well off ever probably struggling to spend the money Florida's squad expensive to fly back in the ninety ninety eight I relatively much more than what they are now and with quite a big deal to come in have a here and leave over here we felt sorry for him and my secretary always suggest to be discounted faithfulness Israel's who've had no idea that they were hard wealthy he remembers Elsa being very dramatic and difficult to deal with but she had good reason to be very hollies triangle they had a terrible history. I guess you've gone through this beforehand and they've pretty stressed to fly over here they had one child who they'd lost done with he was murdered I think we're next Senate confirmed the de tough and rather really came to have another child and if they're only hype that's why they came to throw you both Mario and L. Surreal had children with previous partners but they'd tragedy else's ten year old daughter had only recently died she'd been playing with a gun and it went off killing her that is absolutely horrific so that maintains that there was so much emotion entangled with this whole process that's right there was but the process started well three Brioche created for the couple using else's eggs and donor sperm so they had three chances of success Yup and lied about eleven o'clock midnight on our set evening and she was very dramatic everything was lots of drama so she had her ex collected to a street is beforehand fertilize and they would have developed and we would have chosen the best probably wanting to US Ramdas back which would then be tempted to be frozen suggesting the Million Dollar Question He Elsa Riaz Has three embryos frozen did she get pregnant no unfortunately she didn't Elsa miscarried the first embryo but then rather than try again straight away the reassess headed to Chile in nineteen ninety-three some reports say they adopted a baby there but then the ultimate tragedy flying back to California in crashed Elsa and Mario both died and what they left behind was a massive estate valued at eight million dollars and of course there too remaining embryos the news reached Australia the next year in nineteen eighty four and that's when all hell broke loose in Nineteen eighty-one childless Californian elsewhere and Mario reels came to Milton's Queen Victoria Hospital to join the Ivy if Creole's couple failed in their first attempt to have a child and left Australia leaving behind the two embryos for a second attempt at a later date before the couple could try again they were killed in a plane crash in Chile two frozen embryos in the fridge over nobody knows who is the move who's responsible no one really knew what to do with the Riaz embryos in the early days of Dr Deb Kovacs more first of all we didn't have further ambrose whatever Awadh and secondly we didn't ever anticipate the fact that patients moths all built for young people they're all infertility H it didn't really occur to some of the talk in the early days we had a very simple consent form with no different heading consent form for an operation but soon after that we included consent foam which d the options and the raiders case Jane triggered bid consent Foams but what you found out is that it also unleash these Almighty public debate about the Status frozen embryos and the ethics of obvious I mean this was hard stuff where embryos groups of cells all they something more he is one of the rights for we need a legal guardian who has the interests of these his chew babies at hat and he is the Anglican Church of you is that I've regarded as a positive gift from God that is there is a tremendous new opportunities available in this new technology the Riaz case also demanded lawmakers onto the question when does human life begin and if an embryo was considered to be a person should enjoy the same legal rights as a child but I can two frozen embryos really be as to a"