A couple of interesting stories in the Toronto Star this morning, looking at two medical ethics issues. I was out of town, so didn't write either.
The first looked at when a woman is too old to have a baby, sparked by the death of Maria del Carmen Bousada, who gave birth to twins in December 2006 at age 66.
When it comes to motherhood, how old is too old?
Fertility experts and ethicists re-examined that question yesterday after hearing that a 69-year-old Spanish mother died Saturday, leaving behind 2-year-old twins conceived with a younger woman's eggs and donated sperm.
Maria del Carmen Bousada is believed to have been the world's oldest new mother. She gave birth in December 2006, shortly before her 67th birthday, after telling a clinic in Los Angeles she was 55, the facility's maximum age for single women receiving in-vitro fertilization.
The story goes on to outline the medical reasons for most in-vitro clinics to refuse the treatment to older patients -- the children have more health problrms -- and concluded with Margaret Somerville of McGill questioning whether medical science should be used to do things that are impossible in nature, rather than just stepping in when nature fails.
The other story looked at the other end of the spectrum. Pegged to the assisted suicide death of British conductor Edward Downes and his wife, Joan, at a Swiss clinic it asked whether more countries, including Canada, should allow assisted suicide.
"Whenever it's in the news, we know this comes up again and again," said Olga Krassioukova-Enns, executive director of the Winnipeg-based Canadian Centre for Disability Issues. "This issue, this question, affects people with disabilities and seniors and anyone part of a family."
In May, Bloc Québécois MP Francine Lalonde of Montreal reintroduced a private members' bill to amend the Criminal Code to allow assisted suicide. A similar one she introduced in 2005 failed.
A number of high-profile cases in Quebec recently drove her to try to get the bill passed again.
"We need to have this in order to allow people to make their own choice under certain conditions when the time is right for them to die," said Lalonde yesterday.
Last year, a Quebec man was acquitted after he was charged with helping his disabled uncle commit suicide. A Vancouver man was charged in May with giving his friend a loaded shotgun and a demonstration on how to use the weapon to commit suicide.
Alex Schadenberg, founder of Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said Canadians want better end-of-life care. The mindset that older people and those with disabilities don't want to live as long as possible is a misconception, he said.