Needle and egg

Couple pays $500k for IVF – and gets the wrong sperm

A heartbreaking story has emerged out of the United States, where a woman undergoing IVF treatment had her egg mistakenly impregnated with the wrong man’s sperm.

She and her husband only realised the issue when their healthy child was born and began developing Asian features – and both parents are Caucasian. This only became obvious once the child, who is now 6, was a toddler.

“They love her very much, but it’s a very sensitive and very stressful situation for them,” the couple’s lawyer, David Mazie of Mazie, Slater, Katz & Freeman, told the New York Post.

The pair are now suing the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science at Saint Barnabas, who bungled the procedure. They’re seeking unspecified monetary damages, saying the clinic’s mammoth mistake has caused them “great pain, suffering, permanent injuries and disabilities, as well as the loss of enjoyment of the quality of life”.

DNA testing has confirmed that the husband is definitely not the father, and the couple have since divorced, which they say is partly due to the stress and strain of the situation.

Another contributing factor to their separation, in my humble opinion, would have been the astronomical cost of the IVF procedure.

It’s staggering: the couple spent AU$727,641 ($US500,000) for fertility treatment.

What a remarkable amount of money. I think IVF and fertility treatment is miraculous; it’s incredible that scientists have been able to work out how to manipulate our reproductive systems, to work around problems that can’t be overcome naturally.

But to come with a price-tag of half a million dollars? That not only makes IVF inaccessible, and therefore increasingly the domain of the wealthy, but it also puts so much pressure on that poor child to bring happiness to the family.

Meanwhile in this sorry situation, the Superior Court Judge Keith Lynott has just recently ordered the clinic to hand over a list of men who donated sperm about the same time the couple used the facility. They hope to narrow down who the girl’s biological father is, in an effort to learn more about her genetic history and to develop a relationship.

So many lives impacted over a simple procedural error in a lab. Fertility treatment may be miraculous, but as with all things, when humans start meddling it becomes all the more complicated.

Doctors in surgery

I have health insurance – and my surgery is still $11k

I have health insurance. I have had health insurance for many, many years. If I were to add up the premiums, I’d find that I have spent tens of thousands of dollars on my health insurance policy.

Now I need to use it – and I’m horrified at my out of pocket expenses.

I need to get an operation to fix an umbilical hernia, which is not urgent or life-threatening, but if it becomes strangled then it very quickly could become urgent or life-threatening.

I have a couple of options: join the waitlist for an operation in the public system, or go private.

Through the public system I could be waiting years; as I said, my operation isn’t urgent, so I would be right at the bottom of the priority list.

Privately, however, is going to cost me a small fortune.

The total cost of my surgery in a private hospital is around $24,000. That covers $15,000 for the surgeon’s fee, $1,500 for the anaesthetist, $500 for my health insurance excess, and $7,000 for my hospital stay.

Medicare will cover around $2,000 of the surgeon’s costs, and should rebate a small amount towards the anaesthetist. I thought my health insurance would cover pretty much the rest of my medical procedure – but I was sadly mistaken.

Whilst the hospital accommodation portion is completely covered, my surgeon’s fee is not. My insurer will pay a little more than Medicare, or $3000, towards this cost. This means I have to foot the remaining $10,000 privately, along with the cost of the anaesthetist.

My total out of pocket expense will be around $11,000, and I have top hospital cover!

I could try to find a “cheaper” surgeon, but is this really an area where we want to favour price over quality?

John Menadue, founding chair and board member of the Centre for Policy Development, says private health insurance “threatens our universal health system through seriously weakening the ability of Medicare as a single funder to control costs”.

“We have seen the enormous damage that PHI has wrought in the US. We are steadily going down the same dangerous path,” he argues.

I have to say I agree. Our health system is wildly confusing, expensive and hard to navigate – and it’s little wonder so many people think private health insurance is a scam that does very little to deliver better health outcomes.

Police Lights

Boy hit by car, killed outside school

I got to my desk and perused the news, and read about a terrible accident that happened at a Sydney school on Friday morning. A car appears to have accidentally accelerated before crashing into a wall and pinning a child underneath.

Tragically, the young boy died.

Such a terrible, heart-breaking accident, and it made me reflect on my own morning – which was absolute chaos.

It always is: with three children to get up, dressed, groomed, fed and out the door by 8.30am to drop them to school – with all of their associated permission slips, musical instruments and homework – our mornings are always busy.

I dropped my kids off at their school gate and as usual, I hopped out of the car and gave them a hug cuddle and kiss, and said, “Love you, have a wonderful day, see you at pick up.”

Then I left, and my mind immediately clocked off parent mode and ticked over into work mode. What do I need to do immediately when I get to my desk? What is urgent? Do I have any appointments today?

I can confidently say that I haven’t thought about my children since. They’re at school where I know they’re safe, cared for, busy and active. They’re the school’s responsibility until 3pm.

This is a fallacy we all tell ourselves but the truth is, none of us are ever truly “safe” from harm, are we?

I can only imagine what the poor families and staff who witnessed this accident are going through now. NSW Ambulance duty operations manager David Stride said a number of ambulances responded to the “distressing scene”.

“The child has been pulled out from under the car and has been resuscitated by bystanders… we had five ambulances respond [and there was] also a medical team, so we had a doctor on scene. Unfortunately, the child was unable to be revived.”

Closer to home, there was another tragedy last week when a local dad Scott Rose, 39, was killed during a hit-and-run.

These heart-breaking news stories remind us that we never really know what could be just around the corner.

So, as trite as it sounds, we should try to embrace life as much as we can. We will never regret slowing down; soaking in the smaller moments; or even being a couple of minutes late, if it means time for a slightly longer kiss and cuddle with your loved ones.

Baby Goat Kid

Troubling farm footage of dying goats goes viral

Footage has gone viral this week – and be warned, it’s not very pleasant – of baby goats being slaughtered on a farm.

They are killed because they are male, and therefore of no use to the dairy farm, which produces goats milk.

The footage is particularly disturbing because the person handling the baby animals seems so careless; he simply shoots them and discards them in a pile, as if they’re little more than garbage.

The whole scene is a torturous reminder that our food chain is a grisly one.

This is something many Australians are finding increasingly difficult to reconcile…

We’re a nation of animal lovers, after all. We’ll spend thousands of dollars to add a mixed-breed mutt to our homes, and then provide said fur-kid with the very best veterinary care money can buy.

We dote, we love, we shower our pets with affection.

Then we sit down at night to eat a juicy steak, or knock back three milky coffees per day, and we try not to think about what was involved in bringing that animal produce to the table.

The flip side to this coin is that we want to support our dairy farmers. They’re hard-working and resilient and have weathered so many storms – both literally and figuratively – and the Australian public wants to be right to them.

Footage like this serves to muddy the waters somewhat.

Animals rights charity Aussie Farms, which aims to “end commercialised animal exploitation” in Australia, says greater transparency is needed.

“This confronting footage is yet another example of an industry with zero transparency or laws to properly govern it,” says director of Aussie Farms, Chris Delforce.

“Everything shown in this footage is completely legal under our current legislation. Victoria’s farm animal welfare laws are inadequate, with codes of practice that are only voluntary to abide by.”

He adds, “Consumers are being deceived by the animal agriculture industry. They deserve to know the truth and we will continue to expose it. We won’t stop until the cruelty does.”

Where do you stand on the dairy industry; do you think this is a case of a few bad eggs tarnishing the whole industry? Or is more transparency and regulation required?

Boundary Fence Refugees Asylum

Should Tamil family be sent back to Sri Lanka?

I don’t often find myself agreeing with Barnaby Joyce. But this week, it seems we’ve found ourselves on the same side of a big issue.

Joyce is backing calls for Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to intervene in the case of Tamil couple Priya and Nadesalingam, and their Australian-born children.

The family is currently on track to be sent back to Sri Lanka – despite the fact that they arrived in our country as asylum seekers, who fled Sri Lanka during the civil war because of persecution of the Tamil people.

Australia is the only home their two kids have ever known.

There are some calls from the public to send them back to Sri Lanka because they “arrived illegally”.

But that is exactly what seeking asylum is: it happens when a person has a well-founded fear of being persecuted due to forces outside of their control, so they flee to another country for safety and protection.

When you are desperately fleeing a country, in fear for your lives, there are not always “proper channels” to go through. Corruption is rife, and processes and procedures are unreliable.

To all the people who have no pity for these “queue jumpers”, I want to know; if you were faced with a life of violence and uncertainty, would you really suck it up and try only to go through the proper channels? Or would you explore every single possibility to escape and begin a new, safer life?

In the case of this family, they have become model citizens. They are taxpayers, they work and live in the community in central Queensland, and they have ingratiated themselves into the Australian culture.

However, Dutton is sticking by his decision to deport the family, which he says “didn’t come to the country in the appropriate way”.

“To exercise intervention powers on this, would be to send exactly the wrong message to those who are looking to sell tickets to vulnerable people looking to get on boats,” he says.

Joyce, who is now a backbench Nationals MP, is arguing that Immigration Minister David Coleman has the discretion to overturn the deportation, without it setting a precedent. He offers this analogy:

“If I’m driving… and I’m going at 140km/hr to get a child to the hospital, the policeman has a constabulary right. He can say ‘look, you should slow down, you are against the law, we’re not going to change the law for you’. But because of other circumstances, completely beyond what we would generally accept, we will let you off this time, don’t do it again.”

Should this family be sent back to Sri Lanka – or should we show some compassion and let them stay in Australia to continue living the life they’ve worked hard to build here?