Gannon stands by comments on “selfish” IVF

4 minute read

Michael Gannon has defended his comments describing a 62yo woman's IVF baby as “selfish” and “wrong”


AMA President Michael Gannon is sticking to his guns after describing as “selfish” and “wrong” a 62-year-old woman who gave birth in Melbourne, saying he hopes the controversy will help people see sense.

The first-time mother, supported by her 78-year-old partner, gave birth last week to a baby girl by caesarean section at 34 weeks gestation after receiving IVF treatment overseas.

Dr Gannon, a Perth obstetrician and gynaecologist, came under attack in the press and on social media after he criticised the unnamed Tasmanian woman in a tweet on Tuesday.

Dr Gannon tweeted:

“63yo woman has #ivf baby. Greater priorities in #womenshealth. Child starts life in NICU. Anyone thought ahead to its teens? Selfish, wrong.”

He also questioned whether the couple had considered what would happen when the child was in her teens.

The twitterati quickly accused him of a sexist double standard and told him to mind his own business.  Samples include:

Just looking for your outraged tweet about Mick Jagger fathering a child at 72…

“Heard of Rupert Murdoch? Plenty of fathers over 60. What’s good for the gander should be for the goose if privately purchased.”

“I would file this under “none of your business”.

“You have no right to insult and condescend this woman for making a legal, informed choice, esp from your official AMA account.”

In The Guardian, the president of the Fertility Society of Australia, Professor Michael Chapman, said no one should criticise the woman.

“I think to do so is wrong. I think we’re all selfish in having babies and one of the main motives of having them is self-fulfilment and selfishness, so I don’t criticise her at all for that,” Professor Chapman said.

He added: “Maybe she comes from a wealthy family, maybe there are other family members able to step in and help to look after the child. I can see many situations that might have driven her to this.”

But Professor Chapman said he would be terrified of the risks of pregnancy in a mother of that age and agreed that concerns on behalf of children should also be considered.

In The Australian, Caroline Overington told Dr Gannon to butt out.

“She can’t be all that selfish. She’s just given up nine months of her body, and most of this year’s uninterrupted sleep. She’s also just bestowed the gift of life upon a baby,” she wrote.

“Once upon a time — and not so long ago — it wasn’t uncommon for women to have babies in their 40s, despite the fact that life expectancy then was about 65. Nobody cared then, and nobody should care now.”

Dr Gannon, who has recently been drawn into discussions of a proposal to give people choice in the sex of a third child, said he welcomed fresh debate on the topic of older parenthood.

“When asked to comment, as an experienced obstetrician/gynaecologist and president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), I described the whole episode as selfish and wrong. I stand by those words,” Dr Gannon writes in  Fairfax Media today.

“This case should open a broader debate about assisted reproduction in Australia, and the issue surrounding the obstetric care of women returning home pregnant after ‘treatment’ overseas.

“This must not be narrowly viewed as a women’s rights issue. Nor is it about ageism.

“As a community, we need to consider the rights of the child, the rights of society, the responsibilities of proper parenting, the health of the parents, the health risks to the child at birth and beyond, and the costs to the health system and the taxpayers that fund it.”

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